AS Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte starts a visit to bolster ties with Beijing this week, a local independent pollster released a survey showing that the majority of Filipinos have more trust in the United States than in China.
According to the Social Weather Stations survey released Tuesday, a total of 76 percent of adult Filipinos have “much trust” in the U.S., while 13 percent are undecided and the remainder have “little trust”. The final score from the results was a “very good” net trust rating of +66.
China, on the other hand, is regarded with “little trust” by 55 percent of Filipinos, while 19 percent are undecided. Only 22 percent have “much trust” in the Asian economic powerhouse, the poll results show.
The dismal outcome comes despite Duterte’s praises for China and his efforts to rebuild relations between Beijing and Manila that have been strained by long-seething territorial conflicts in the South China Sea.
The SWS Sept 24 to 27 survey polled 1,200 adult Filipinos and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
China’s state news agency Xinhua News said this week’s visit by Duterte points toward a restoration of trust between the sides following recent tensions over their South China Sea territorial dispute.
The agency said Duterte’s arrival on Tuesday will be a step toward ending years of estrangement between the countries.
Duterte has said he wants to reduce contacts with defence treaty ally the U.S. in favor of closer ties with China.
Xinhua said in a commentary Tuesday that Duterte’s visit shows the “bad blood between Beijing and Manila has finally begun to give place to good faith.” It said a Hague-based international arbitration panel’s July ruling that denied China’s claims in the South China Sea had no bearing on discussions between the sides.
On Sunday, however, Duterte told a news conference in the Philippines that he will raise the South China Sea dispute with China during the visit, and that he will stand by the arbitration court’s ruling favoring his country.
In an interview with Xinhua, Duterte said China is his country’s only hope for development as his visit beginning Tuesday points toward a restoration of trust between the sides following recent tensions over the territorial disputes.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) October 18, 2016
He said China is a potent source of capital for much-needed infrastructure development and that the Philippines should leverage its 2 million-strong ethnic Chinese minority as a bridge to encourage Chinese investment.
Duterte said in the interview that his own grandfather was Chinese, and that “It’s only China (that) can help us.”
He said that unlike the U.S. and other Western nations, China has offered its support for his 3-month-old government without criticism.
“There is no sense of going to war. No sense of fighting over a body of water. We prefer to talk. We want to talk about friendship, cooperation and business,” he said.
Duterte has stated his intention to foster better ties with China and Russia, and revamping the Philippine foreign policy that has long been pro-Washington. After making headlines for labeling Obama a “son of a bitch” and ordering U.S. troops to leave the Philippines, Duterte claimed of possible deals with China and Russia to boost his country’s military arsenal.
Additional reporting from the Associated Press