Majority of Filipinos Support Military Action in West Philippine Sea – Survey Reveals

The Philippine Navy's BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS-15) joins the 2nd iteration of the AFP-USINDOPACOM Maritime Cooperative Activity in West Philippine Sea on January 3-4, 2024. The ship sailed together with allied forces and participated in exercises that further advance combined capabilities in maritime domain. Photo from Armed Forces of the Philippines
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A recent survey conducted by OCTA Research revealed that a majority of Filipinos want the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to handle issues in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) through military action. The fourth quarter (Q4) Tugon ng Masa Survey, conducted from December 10 to 14 last year, showed that 72 percent of respondents believe that the government should primarily focus on expanded naval patrols and troop presence in the disputed waters.

This figure marks a 7 percentage point increase from the previous survey conducted in October. The second most preferred approach, with 70 percent of respondents, is the use of diplomacy and other peaceful methods. The third most favored measure, at 60 percent, is the modernization of the country’s military capability.

These preferences were consistent across different regions in the country and among different socioeconomic classes. However, there were some notable variations. In Balance Luzon, there was a 4-percent increase in respondents who preferred modernizing and strengthening the military’s capability. Mindanao saw a significant increase of 20 percentage points, followed by the Visayas with an 11 percentage point increase, and the National Capital Region with an 8 percentage point increase.

When examining the preferences based on socioeconomic class, it was found that Class ABC and Class E favored diplomacy over military action, with percentages of 73 and 83, respectively. On the other hand, Class D respondents showed a stronger preference for military action at 76 percent compared to pursuing diplomatic moves at 66 percent. Notably, Class D respondents had the highest increase in support for asserting the country’s territorial rights through military action, with a 12 percent jump from the October 2023 survey. In contrast, there was a decrease in support among Class ABC and Class E respondents, with decreases of 3 and 12 percentage points, respectively.

The survey also explored other possible measures that could be taken in the West Philippine Sea dispute. These measures included conducting joint patrols among allied countries, expanding diplomatic efforts within and outside the region, and shelving the disputes in favor of a joint economic area.

It is important to note that the survey had 1,200 respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, ensuring a representative sample of the Filipino population.

In response to the tensions in the West Philippine Sea, Deputy Majority Leader and Ang Probinsyano Partylist Rep. Alfred de los Santos called on the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to improve their coordination and presence in the area. This call came after Filipino fishermen were harassed once again by the China Coast Guard at Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal).

The survey results highlight the sentiments of Filipinos regarding the West Philippine Sea issue, with a majority favoring military action as the primary approach. These insights provide valuable information for policymakers as they navigate the complexities of the dispute and work towards safeguarding the country’s territorial rights.

Source: The Manila Times

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