MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos remain divided on whether the Philippines should resolve its dispute with China through diplomacy or an arbitration case, a recent survey said.
In a survey published by Philippine broadsheet The Standard, 53% of respondents said it "is better if the Aquino administration resolved this diplomatically."
In contrast, 47% said it "is better that the Aquino administration complained to the United Nations (UN)," according to the survey conducted by veteran pollster Junie Laylo. (READ: Q and A: Case vs China 'not enough,' expert says)
The survey was referring to the Philippines' arbitration case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague, The Netherlands.
A portion of the survey was published on Wednesday, June 3, on The Standard, as well as on the official Facebook page of Laylo Research Strategies.
The survey, called "The Standard Poll," had a margin of error of +/-2.6% for results on the national level and +/-6% for results on the regional.
It was conducted from May 8 to 18 among 1,500 respondents.
Parts of the Laylo survey run against the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released by the Philippine government in February 2014.
In that SWS survey, 82% of Filipinos agreed with the Philippines' decision to file a case against China.
The difference between the SWS and the Laylo surveys – at least in the publicized results – is in the questions asked.
The SWS survey asked Filipinos if they agree or disagree with the Philippines filing a case against China.
The Laylo survey asked Filipinos to choose which is better: filing a case or pursuing diplomacy to resolve the sea row.
'We have to go back to talks'
The latest poll added another dimension to the dispute.
The Laylo survey results showed that most Filipinos, or 68% of respondents, have little trust in China. Only 8% have much trust China, while 24% remain undecided.
The poll results also showed that 76% of respondents have much trust in the United States, which has backed the Philippines in slamming China's reclamation activities. Only 7% have little trust in the US, while 17% remain undecided. (READ: Obama: China's neighbors must not be 'elbowed aside')
China, for its part, stressed that it wants to keep its centuries-long friendship with the Philippines – from their maritime trade that began 1,000 years ago.
Emphasizing the "560 times growth" of trade between the Philippines and China, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said in March, "We are destined to be friends and partners.
The Laylo survey comes as the West Philippine Sea dispute heats up.
On Wednesday, repeating a comment that angered Beijing, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III drew a parallel between present-day China and Nazi Germany.
The dispute is expected to escalate in July when an arbitral tribunal at the PCA conducts a crucial hearing on the Philippines' case.
The Philippine government, however, plans to resume its talks with China once the tribunal rules on the case, likely by 2016.
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in April: "We really have to go back to bilateral talks. Once we have a decision by the court which is favorable, we can at least negotiate from a stronger position." – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, we reported based on survey figures that more Filipinos prefer talks with China. We have corrected this to say Filipinos remain divided on the issue.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.