Majority of Filipinos still favour the United States over China, but the gap is narrowing amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s push to improve Manila’s ties with Beijing, according to an American think-tank.
Seventy-eight percent of Filipinos surveyed by the Pew Research Center had a favourable view of the US, compared with 55% for China.
Positive feelings toward the US are down 14 percentage points since 2015, when Barack Obama was the US president, coinciding with the global decline in US favourability at the beginning of the Donald Trump era.
“While Trump’s first months in office have had a major impact on worldwide perceptions of the US, people in the Philippines still like the US and have confidence in its leaders,” said the Pew report written by Jacob Poushter and Caldwell Bishop.
The favourable opinion of China among Filipinos changed little since 2015 but is up 17 points since 2014, when most Filipinos were concerned that territorial disputes with Beijing could lead to a military conflict.
“Filipinos also share positive views of China and its leader, President Xi Jinping. And overall, the perception gap between the US and China in the Philippines is narrowing,” the Washington think-tank said.
The Pew Research Center, a non-partisan organisation, polled 1,000 Filipinos in the Philippines from February 26 to May 8, 2017.
The Philippines is among countries that view President Doland Trump most favourably, but confidence in Trump now is lower than in President Barack Obama in 2015.
“Currently, 69% have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, compared with 94% who expressed such confidence in Obama in 2015,” the report said.
Still, Filipinos support US military presence in the region and believe the US will defend them in a conflict with China. The survey also found that seven in 10 Filipinos thought the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group posed a major threat in the Philippines.
“While IS is named as the top threat in the Philippines, many in the country also see climate change (65%) and cyber-attacks (64%) as major security concerns for their country,” the survey said.
Nearly half or 47% of Filipinos name China’s power and influence as a major threat, almost double the share of people in the Philippines who name the US as a major threat (25%).
Pew found that Duterte and his policies remained widely popular despite international concerns over his administration’s war on drugs and alleged human rights violations.
The survey found that 86% of Filipinos had a favourable view of Duterte, 78% supported his handling of the illegal-drugs issue and 62% said the government was making progress in its anti-narcotics campaign.
By Catherine S Valente
Gulf Times/Manila Times