A survey held by the Social Weather Stations last December said the foreign country most trusted by Filipinos today is the United States – with 75 percent “much trust” against 7 percent “little trust,” for a net score of plus-68. Next to the US were Canada with plus-55 and Japan with plus-54.
The next group of countries in the survey with “moderate trust” ratings were Singapore (+29), Malaysia (+20), Thailand (+19), Indonesia (+18), Brunei (+16), and Vietnam (+13), all fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In the next group of countries in the survey with “neutral trust” ratings were Myanmar (+8), Cambodia (+7), China (+7), and Laos (+3). SWS included North Korea in the survey and it scored a “poor” negative-19.
In recent months, the US has figured prominently in news reports read by Filipinos. President Duterte had very harsh words for the US at the start of his administration, calling instead for closer relations with Russia and China. But the US has never dropped in the opinion surveys among Filipinos,
The 50 years of American colonial rule during which political, educational, social, and cultural values were accepted and adopted by Filipinos were followed by the US-Philippine alliance in World War II and US recognition of Philippine independence in 1946. There was even a statehood movement in the country. Hundreds of thousands have migrated to the US; some 2 million of them live in the US today.
Canada was recently in the news when some Canadian official wanted to review the sale of Canadian helicopters to the Philippines, fearing they would be used in Philippine military operations against Filipino rebels in the South. It was a pointless objection and the Philippine government simply scrapped the helicopter deal. Despite all this, the survey shows Filipinos continue to trust Canada, probably seeing it as a close ally of the US in all things.
Japan was an enemy country in World War II. We suffered from occupation by Japanese troops for three years. But today, Japan is perceived as a close friend of the Philippines. It is not seen as a military threat because of its pacificist constitution. It is seen as a close ally of the US. And, like the Philippines, it has its dispute with China over islands in the sea between them.
Our relations with China today are the closest ever, with President Duterte opting to work with China in economic programs. We remain firm in standing by the decision of the Arbitral Court in the Hague supporting our claims in the South China Sea, which China is equally firm in ignoring. But this is not the time to fight China over our rights to islands and our exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, the President said. It is a pragmatic decision, considering China’s fast-growing influence in the world, but the SWS survey results show how Filipinos feel and this cannot be ignored by our officials.
It was India’s revered Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “There goes my people. I must follow them for I am their leader.” The Filipino people expressed some very strong views in the recent SWS survey on nations they trust. As our officials lead us through the maze of local and international problems facing our nation today, they must not ignore what our people are saying through these surveys.