NINE of 10 Filipinos believe it is important for the Philippines to regain control of the features in the disputed West Philippine Sea that are being occupied by China, the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed.
The survey, conducted from June 22 to 26, found that 93 percent of adult Filipinos were convinced that the Philippines should take back control of its territories.
Of the 93 percent, 74 percent said it was "very important" while the remaining 19 percent said it was "somewhat important."
Only one percent thought it was "somewhat not important" and the other one percent said it was "not at all important."
Four percent were ambivalent on the matter.
The same survey revealed that 89 percent of respondents said it was "not right" for President Rodrigo Duterte's government to "leave China alone" with its infrastructure and military presence in the claimed territories.
Around 92 percent believed it was "right" for the current administration to boost the military capability of the Philippines, especially the Philippine Navy, amid the growing tension in the South China Sea.
Some 83 percent also agreed that it was "right" for the Duterte government to raise the issue to international organizations, like the United Nations or Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for a "diplomatic and peaceful negotiation" with China about the claimed territories.
Around 84 percent likewise deemed it "right" for the government to "form alliances" with other countries that are ready to help the Philippines in defending its security in the South China Sea.
The SWS conducted the survey after a Chinese vessel on June 9 slammed, sank, and abandoned Filipino fishing vessel Gem-Ver1 at Recto Bank, which is located within the Philippines's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The final and official joint investigation report of the Philippine Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority has categorized the allision at Recto Bank as "very serious marine casualty" because of the "total loss" of Gem-Ver1.
Sought for reaction on the SWS survey, Panelo said the government is trying to regain control of the China-claimed islands in the West Philippine Sea.
The Palace official, however, admitted that there was a "problem," since China is asserting that it owns the features that are "supposed to be ours."
"Dapat nga 100 percent, lahat ng Pilipino dapat (It should be that 100 percent or all Filipinos) would want to have control over the areas that are supposed to be ours. But the reality is may problema tayo doon (we have problem there) because China claims to own it too," Panelo told a press conference.
"Sa ngayon, dahil nga may problema on the claim of ownership, dadaanin natin sa diplomatic negotiations (To date, since there's a problem on the claim of ownership, we will address it through diplomatic negotiations). That's the tact the President has decided," he added.
Panelo was optimistic that diplomatic negotiations between the Philippines and China would enable Manila to regain control of the features in the disputed sea.
"Eh kung makukuha natin sa diplomatic negotiations, lalong magaling. Hindi natin alam kung anong chances but we're doing it. (If we can do it through diplomatic negotiations, it's better. We don't know the chances but we're doing it)," he said.
The SWS interviewed 1,200 adult Filipinos, using sampling error margins of ±3 percentage points for national percentages, and ±6 percentage points each for Metro Manila, Balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. (SunStar Philippines)