A majority of Filipinos support President Ferdinand Marcos' firm stance in dealing with Beijing on the South China Sea dispute, according to a survey released Thursday.
In a survey conducted from September 30 to October 4, Marcos' approval rating was 58%, up 15 points from July, when Manila pollster OCTA Research Group conducted its previous poll.
„This represents a significant 15-point increase from the 43% recorded in the second quarter,” the pollster said in its report surveying 1,200 people on their opinion of Marcos' policies in dealing with the West Philippine Sea, after which Manila is named. South China Sea waters are within its exclusive economic zone.
The latest survey period coincided with reports from the Chinese Coast Guard Alleged harassment Philippine Ships Providing arrangements for troops at its military outpost on Ayungin (Thomas II) Shoal in the South China Sea.
Marcos, who took office last year, reversed the pro-China policies of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, realigned with the United States and gave American troops greater access to Philippine bases.
A „substantial majority” of Filipinos surveyed for a recent OCTA poll said they support a dual approach of „diplomacy and military action” in asserting Manila's territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.
70% favored diplomacy to secure territorial claims, while 65% supported military action, including „expanded naval patrols and troop presence.”
Additional preferred strategies include strengthening military defenses (62%), conducting joint maritime patrols with allies (42%), expanding diplomatic efforts (42%) and exploring joint economic solutions (17%).
Earlier this year, Manila launched a bilateral program Patrolling with America and Australia in the West Philippine Sea. Officials said the Southeast Asian country is preparing to cooperate with France, Canada, the UK, India and New Zealand on similar patrols.
Ray Powell, a retired US Air Force officer and commentator on regional maritime affairs, said the Duterte administration had been soft in its dealings with China and favored bilateral talks to ease tensions.
„All of a sudden, the rest of the world is seeing this level of maritime aggression by China and realizing that this has been going on for some time and we're not paying attention,” Powell told Manila cable television station ANC. Last week.
He said the Philippines' engagement with other countries has brought the country support from the international community.
„If Beijing sees the Philippines as an isolated country, it will always think it is on the fringes. But if it sees the Philippines as part of a larger network of like-minded security partners willing to make real material sacrifices for Manila, that changes Beijing's calculus greatly,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government has allocated 100 million pesos (US $1.81 million) to build permanent military and civilian structures on Ayung (Thomas II) Shoal, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Medal Aguilar confirmed Thursday.
PRP Sierra Madre, a rusty old naval ship, was deliberately sunk ashore by the government in 1999.
Aguilar said the construction of the structures on the shore will require the cooperation of several agencies, as part of the structures will include public shelters for fishermen.
„We will be ready to do our work when the implementation of the project begins,” Philippine military spokesman Col. Medal Aguilar told reporters.
Separately, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his Philippine counterpart, Enrique Manalo, spoke by phone to discuss tensions in the South China Sea, both sides said on Thursday.
Manalo said Manila's interest in „protecting its sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction while maintaining peace and security and upholding the rules-based international order”.
Blinken underscored Washington's „ironclad commitment” to the Philippines under the Mutual Security Treaty.
The treaty, signed in 1951, calls on both countries to help each other in times of foreign aggression.
„Building on President Marcos' official visit to Washington DC last May, Secretary Blinken and Secretary Manalo exchanged views on how to strengthen US-Philippines cooperation in the coming year,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. In a statement.
Jeffrey Meidem contributed to this report from Davao City, southern Philippines.
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