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Survey shows how far we have to go

PRESIDENT Duterte appears determined to develop a more independent foreign policy for the Philippines, one that is less dependent on the United States. His ongoing trip to China is a key part of this effort. He hopes to bring home from his trip new investments and trade agreements with China that should boost our national economy.

But he has to face the fact that most Filipinos today feel close to Americans, more than any other nation. In the Third Quarter 2016 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted September 24-27, 76% of the respondents said they had “much trust” in the US, with 11 percent having “little trust” – for a rating of +66, described by SWS as “very good.”

In the same survey, 22 percent said they had “much trust” in China, 55 percent had “little trust,” and 19 percent were undecided – for a rating of -33, described by SWS as “bad.” The big disparity shows how far we have to go in our efforts to work more closely with our big neighbor to the northwest.

Two other countries in the survey – Australia and Japan – had “good” ratings. Australia scored +47 (62 percent “much trust” minus 15 percent “little trust.”) Japan scored +34 (56 percent “much trust” minus 21 percent “little trust.” Even far-away Norway and Netherlands had “moderate” trust ratings with +16 and +14, respectively.

We also have many more Filipinos living and working in the US today than anywhere else in the world. This year these workers remitted nearly $5 billion as of July, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Remittances from China for the same period amounted to $95.8 million and from Hong Kong $482.8 million, totaling $578.6 million.

President Duterte’s efforts to develop closer ties with China have been described by some as a “pivot” to China, recalling US President Obama’s pivot to Asia and the Pacific, away from Europe and the Atlantic. The President’s four-day state visit to China, which reaches its climax today, is a major part of that pivot in Philippine foreign policy.

In the coming months, we expect to see more fruits of the President’s visit to China. We expect increases in our trade with that nation which is now Asia’s biggest economy. China’s biggest train company Dalian has offered to modernize the Philippines’ aging railway system. Its ten biggest construction firms are looking at possible projects here.

In time, our pivot to China should bring us all these benefits to our economy. As they impact on the lives of our people, we should see the changes on their views about the world and other nations as reflected in the surveys on trust conducted regularly by SWS.