(July 14, 2020) – Seven out of 10 Filipinos want the Philippine government to assert the arbitral ruling it won over China four years ago in the disputed South China Sea, a poll said on Tuesday, but the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte would like to set it aside in exchange for closer economic relations.
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released Tuesday said 70 percent of respondents agreed the Philippine Government should assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea, or the South China Sea, based on a 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
[INS: SWS CHART]
Fifteen percent were undecided, while only 13 percent disagreed.
The poll was commissioned by the political and security think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario (ADR) Institute, on the fourth anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the South China Sea. The Hague-based tribunal declared that China’s nine-dash line claim was invalid, and upheld the Philippines’ rights over its 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the disputed region.
Stratbase’s chairman, former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, was instrumental in filing the arbitration case challenging China’s excessive South China Sea claims.
He told reporters the president should raise the maritime dispute before the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“We believe that President Duterte may still have the opportunity to fulfill his promise to the Filipino people, raise the award! And this time, not before Chinese President Xi Jinping but before the world,” del Rosario said in a virtual briefing.
On Sunday, Duterte’s foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. called on China to comply with the tribunal’s ruling, calling Manila’s position as non-negotiable.
But China’s embassy rejected Locsin, calling the arbitral award “illegal and invalid”.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday did not support Locsin, saying they would rather continue to pursue bilateral relations with China.
“Let’s just say that we agree to disagree, pero meanwhile itong disagreement nating ito ay hindi dahilan at hindi naman ito ang sumo-total ng ating relasyon sa Tsina,” Roque said.
“Isasantabi muna po natin ang mga bagay na hindi apagkasunduan kasama na po itong territorial dispute na ito.”
Based on the SWS poll, four out of five Filipinos (82%) agreed the Philippines should form alliances with countries ready to defend its territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.
Only nine percent disagreed, while eight percent were undecided.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they continue to align with the Philippines on the arbitral ruling, calling it “final and legally binding on both parties.” (Reports from Dale de Vera, Marianne Enriquez | Katrina Elaine Alba/MM)
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