Nearly 8 in 10 in Philippines Would Fight Over China-Claimed Territory

Nearly 8 in 10 in Philippines Would Fight Over China-Claimed Territory

The vast majority of Philippine nationals would fight to defend their country, according to a poll conducted as China’s territorial challenge to the U.S. defense treaty ally reached a new crescendo.

Overall, 77 percent of respondents answered “Yes” when asked if they were ready to fight in a hypothetical “conflict between the Philippines and a foreign enemy,” according to pollsters from independent consulting firm OCTA Research.

The survey was released Sunday on the heels of last week’s escalation of tensions in the Beijing-claimed South China Sea. For the second time in three months, the China Coast Guard deployed water cannons while aggressively moving to block a Philippine convoy bearing supplies and troops to a military outpost at Second Thomas Shoal. One supply boat turned back after a water cannon damaged it and injured four crew members.

Since last year, the Philippines has been publicizing China’s actions within the Southeast Asian country’s internationally recognized 230-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

China Coast Guard vessels deploy water cannons at a ship chartered by the Philippine military during its supply mission to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea on May 4, 2024. The vast majority…

Jam Sta Rosa
Broken down by age, the OCTA Research poll showed 74 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds would fight for their country. That’s within the margin of error of the 77 percent who said the same among the 35 to 44 and 45- to 54-year-old demographics.

City dwellers (80 percent) were more likely to say they’d fight for their country than people living in rural areas (73 percent). More men (82 percent) were willing to fight than women (72 percent).

Respondents with vocational training (86 percent) were more likely to take up arms than those with a high school education (79 percent), undergraduate or postgraduate degree-holders (70 percent), or those with an elementary-level or no formal education (74 percent).

This was the first time OCTA Reasearch had included the question in its polling, OCTA analyst and University of the Philippines mathematics professor Guido David told Newsweek.

The survey was conducted among 1,200 respondents aged 18 and up from December 10-14. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 95 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent.

“Let us take the result of the survey as a call to action and prepare for when we are called upon by the government to defend the state, the Philippine military’s Chief of Staff Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a statement Monday.

Aside from fighting, Philippine nationals can help by “informing our friends around the world and echoing our call against the illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive tactics that other countries are doing against our country, particularly in the West Philippine Sea,” he said, using Manila’s term for the portion of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ EEZ.

The poll results follow another recent OCTA survey that showed over 70 percent of Philippine citizens now believe their government should prioritize “military action” to protect the country’s rights in the South China Sea, a 7-percent increase since the poll three months prior.

This apparent shift in public preference for greater assertiveness reflects recent moves and messaging by the government.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos last month said he would not cede “even one square inch” of his country’s territory to a foreign power. The Marcos administration is also stepping up patrols in contested waters and is embarking on an ambitious decade-long $35 billion military modernization program.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao (South China Sea islands). There’s no territorial dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at Wednesday’s regular press conference.

“We stand ready to continue to work with the Philippines to properly handle differences through dialogue and consultation. At the same time, we will take resolute measures to firmly safeguard our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” he added.

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