Duterte’s pivot to China against the grain

by Raynan F. Javil / October 18, 2016 / BusinessWorldOnline

HE may have won an overwhelming mandate in May, but President Rodrigo R. Duterte will be swimming upstream when he leaves for China today on a four-day visit to balance foreign relations away from the United States, according to results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll.

The Third Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey — conducted Sept. 24-27 via face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide and with a ±3 percentage-point sampling error margin — found 55% of Filipinos having “little trust,” 19% undecided, and 22% having “much trust” in China.

That yielded a “bad” -33 net trust in the Philippines’ giant northern neighbor, down nine points and a grade from the “poor” -24 logged in June 2016.

The SWS noted that China’s net trust rating has been positive in only seven out of 40 surveys since the pollster first included it in August 1994, reaching as high as a “moderate” +17 in June 2010 — the eve of the start of former president Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s administration that challenged before an international court in The Hague in 2013 Beijing’s maritime claims to part of the South China Sea and won a landmark ruling against the northern giant last July — and as low as a “bad” -46 in September 2015.

SWS classifies net trust ratings of at least +70 as “excellent”; +50 to +69 as “very good”; +30 to +49, “good”; +10 to +29, “moderate”; +9 to -9, “neutral”; -10 to -29, “poor”; -30 to -49, “bad”; -50 to -69, “very bad”; as well as -70 and below as “execrable.”

Sought for comment, Herman Joseph S. Kraft, University of the Philippines associate professor for Political Science, said in a mobile phone message that “the negative rating probably comes from sentiments regarding China’s attitude towards the arbitral decision.”

“The Chinese government’s refusal to accept the content of the award might be seen as defiance in the face of what Filipinos see as a legitimate decision.”

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In his departure speech at the Davao International Airport on Sunday before leaving, first to Brunei Darussalam and then to China, Mr. Duterte said: “I look forward to renewing the ties of friendship between the Philippines and China and to reaffirm the commitment to work closer to achieve shared goals for our countries and peoples.”

Mr. Kraft said that “President Duterte sees China as a necessary partner in his war in drugs because it is where illegal drugs entering the Philippines mostly come from.” Read more…

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