MANILA – Majority of Filipinos believe that the Marcos administration should strengthen its security cooperation with the United States and Japan to defend the West Philippine Sea.

In the latest Pulse Asia survey published Thursday, 84 percent of Filipinos want the government to work with the United States while 52 percent leaned toward Japan.

Aside from the two, 25 percent of the respondents believe that the Marcos administration should strengthen ties with Australia, 24 percent with the United Kingdom, and 23 percent with South Korea, and 20 percent with China and the European Union.

Courtesy of Stratbase ADRI

“This indicates that the Philippines must continue to work with its existing allies and forge relationships with new ones in order to competitively and efficiently address issues and incidents in the West Philippine Sea. Working with like-minded states, such as the United States, Australia, and Japan, and elevating these ties to strategic partnerships reaffirm the country’s 2016 Arbitral win and contribute to the security and stability in the region,” Stratbase president Dindo Manhit said, recalling that a June 2022 survey also showed that the three countries most trusted by Filipinos are US, Australia and Japan.

“Working with friends, allies, and partners as a strategy allows the Philippines to practice an independent foreign policy based on the public’s interests,” he added.

At least 17 percent Filipinos, on the other hand, want the country to work closely with Russia, 12 percent with France, and 2 percent with India.

Pulse Asia President Ronald Holmes released the survey results during a forum organized by Stratbase ADR Institute and the United States Embassy. The survey was conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 2022 and was commissioned by Stratbase.

The Philippines, China and several other states have competing claims over the vast resource-rich South China Sea, with Beijing claiming at least 80 percent of the sea lane.

'Boost military capability'

A December 2022 Pulse Asia survey also shows that 50 percent of Filipinos believe that the Philippine government should prioritize strengthening its military, especially the Navy and the Coast Guard to effectively address issues in the West Philippine Sea.

Some 29 percent said the Marcos administration should also conduct joint maritime patrols and military exercises with allied countries.

Courtesy of Stratbase ADRI

The same survey shows that 53 percent of Filipinos believe that the protection of marine resources and environment in Philippine territory is the most important reason to strengthen ability to defend and protect the seas, while 22 percent think it is the protection of rights of peoples and communities in the coastal areas.

Meanwhile, 14 percent believe the "most important reason" is to stop China’s incursions in Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ.

In the forum, Holmes posited that the issue of the West Philippine Sea could only be taken by the public as a priority or urgent "depending on the statement or the emphasis" given by the chief executive.

"[I]t really needs to be prioritized and it has to be linked to the basic issues that Filipinos give importance to and this is livelihood and income," he said.

"The area also has so much of this resources that the Philippines could benefit from and if we lose those territories, the Philippines would mean for example, in terms of guts, the Philippines will be at the losing end. So those are the things that maybe the government should articulate, rather than just the private sector, civil society groups," he added. (PNA)