By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy
LAST July 11, the Social Weather Station released the result of its survey showing mistrust against China and an increase in trust for the United States. The tables are tilting against China as in many other countries.
According to the SWS survey as reported by Rappler.com, “93% of Filipino adults say it is important that the Philippines regain control of the islands occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea.” This is higher than the 87% sentiment of the Filipinos in June 2018 and 89% in September of that year. The Filipinos are now almost unanimous in this respect after they tolerated President Duterte to dance with China.
Quoting the SWS survey, Rappler said that 89% of the adult Filipinos say that it is not right for the Philippine government to leave China alone with its infrastructure and military presence in the claimed territories while 92% said it is right to strengthen the military capability of the Philippines, especially the Navy.
Eighty-three percent of the Filipino respondents also said that “it is right for the government to bring the issue to international organizations, like the United Nations or Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for a diplomatic and peaceful negotiation with China about the claimed territories”. On the other hand, “84% said it is right for the government to form alliances with other countries that are ready to help us in defending our security in the West Philippine Sea”.
These sentiments clearly indicate that there is a rising demand that the Philippine government take action to expel the Chinese from these islands that had already been declared by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea as part of the Philippine territory.
Relying on its military and economic power, China refuses to even discuss this matter and continues to encroach into our archipelagic territory. This is a clear case of bullying and the Filipinos know it to be China’s muscle-flexing despite its claims of the friendly relations with the Philippine government under President Duterte.
Indeed, China has been doling out billions of pesos in loans to the Philippines during these last three years but these have to be paid for by the present and future generations of Filipinos. We are beginning to realize the danger that these moves of the government will bring as well as the influx of Chinese businessmen and workers.
If the trend of discontent over China’s dealing with the Philippines continues, we don’t know how things will turn out once the Duterte government leaves office. Of course, the Chinese can always finance candidates for the presidency in 2022 but that is subject to question. If the mistrust against China remains or go higher, any China mark on any candidate can be a disaster.
The resurgence of anti-China sentiments can develop into a racial hatred as it had happened in the past. Since the middle of the 16th century until the outbreak of World War II, the common sentiment among Filipinos is against the Chinese. The war however, made allies of the Philippines and China against Japan to the extent that in 1949, when communism took over control of China, the Philippines allowed thousands of Chinese refugees to find a home in the Philippines.
But that was a short-lived rapprochement because the Chinese began to take over the retail trade and the Philippine government, responding to the resurgence of anti-Sinoism, imposed a ban on Chinese from the retail trade. Only the opening of a good relationship between China and the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos did this mistrust of the Chinese abated. From then on the Chinese in the Philippine prospered.
But this harmony will be placed under stress if China continued to bully the Filipinos. I believe that only because of President Duterte there is a wait and see attitude but the floodgates of mistrust can erupt once Duterte is no longer in control.
On the other hand, there is increasing trust in the United States among Filipinos. The anti-American activists that favored China have calmed down. We believe that only the US can stop China from grabbing more of our territory. Duterte alienated the US when he moved closer to China, as Marcos did using what was called “the China card”- pitting friendship with China against the US.
Now the US is increasing its presence.