Poll shows 77 percent of Filipinos back stronger PH military in WPS
MANILA, Philippines—At least 77 percent of Filipinos believe that the Philippine government should strengthen the military’s capability to protect the West Philippine Sea, results of a recent survey conducted by pollster Social Weather Stations showed.
The survey result, which was presented at an online forum hosted by Stratbase ADR Institute on Wednesday (July 28), was conducted from June 23 to June 26 on 1,200 respondents equally divided across Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The build-up of military capability was among the five proposals provided by Stratbase ADR Institute on what the Philippine government should do to defend the West Philippine Sea. Respondents were asked to choose three answers, ranked in order of importance.
The conduct of joint maritime patrols was the second top choice with 65 percent, while 57 percent picked the full implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States.
Finalizing the ASEAN Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and bringing the issue to the United Nations General Assembly were at the bottom of the five choices.
“In all areas, majorities chose Strengthen military capability of the Philippines, especially the Navy and Coast Guard, as the most effective measure: 81% in Mindanao, 78% in Metro Manila, 76% in Balance Luzon, and 75% in the Visayas,” SWS said.
The presence of more than 200 Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef early this year prompted the Philippine government to increase the frequency of its air and sea patrols. But it also exposed challenges and limitations of the Philippine military in patrolling the area.
The Western Command (Wescom) in Palawan, which is in charge of sovereign patrols in the Kalayaan Island Group, earlier called for “game changers”, or more military hardware and systems, that would help maritime patrols to detect Chinese incursions.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday (July 26) that the administration will push for the continued modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the remaining 11 months of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The same SWS survey results showed that 47 percent of Filipinos believed the Philippine government was not doing enough to assert the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea.
Another 24 percent disagreed, while 29 percent were undecided on the statement, “The Philippine government is not doing enough to assert its rights to the country’s territories in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.”
SWS calculated a net agreement score of 23 or “moderately strong” in all areas.
At least 68 percent of the respondents also favored alliances with other countries to defend Philippine rights in the West Philippine Sea, while 22 percent were undecided, and 9 percent disagreed.
At least 69 percent supported building structures in the West Philippine Sea, while 21 percent were undecided, and 10 percent said it was not important.
SWS also listed its own questions in the survey aside from Stratbase’s. At least 51 percent of the respondents found the government’s action to protect fishermen’s rights as adequate, while 17% were undecided, and 32% said they are inadequate.
“By trust in China, the net adequacy score is higher among those with much trust (+45), compared to those undecided (+20, correctly rounded) and those with little trust (+9),” SWS said.
At least 49 percent said the government’s action to protect natural resources in the West Philippine Sea was adequate; 19 percent were undecided, 33 percent said it was inadequate.
Contrary to the survey findings of the Stratbase-sponsored questions, 48 percent of the respondents believed that the government’s actions in the West Philippine Sea were adequate, 19 percent were undecided and 33 percent said it was inadequate.
At least 31 percent of Filipinos believed President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendship with China “has much benefit,” while 40 percent were undecided, and 29 percent saw little benefit.
The survey had sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages and ±6% for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.