Filipinos don’t pivot | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Filipinos don’t pivot

The new foreign policy dance of the Duterte administration is the “pivot.”  It directs dancers to radically turn away from the United States and its allies, and face toward China and Russia instead.  Its problem, however, is that Filipinos are not following the dance leader, preferring their good old dance moves.

Ever since scientific opinion polling began, no country has been more trusted by Filipinos than the United States. This continues in the March 2017 Social Weather Survey, which has 70 percent trusting and only 13 percent distrusting the US, for a Very Good (+50 to +69) net trust rating of +56, correctly rounded.


In 55 SWS polls since 1994, the US’ trust rating has been Very Good if not Excellent (+70 and up) 45 times, Good (+30 to +49) 9 times, and Moderate (+10 to +29) once.  The last time it was below Very Good was seven years ago. The low points have never been serious or prolonged, despite the instances of denied visas, crimes, including sexual abuse, committed by Americans, and other resentments, current and/or historical, of some Filipinos toward the US.

The March 2017 survey measured public trust in seven countries, and also obtained the following net trust ratings: Japan +42, Australia +38, France +18, Russia +6, China -4, and North Korea -5.  Trust in Japan and Australia rate as Good, while trust in France is Moderate. Trust in Russia, China and North Korea are all Neutral (-9 to +9; we statistically distinguish from zero when net trust is double-digit).


Every SWS report charts, in addition to the latest findings, all the past figures of the same survey item, for a full historical context. The new survey shows no fundamental change in the trust of Filipinos for the US and its allies, relative to its Cold War adversaries such as China and Russia.

Is there any DU30 effect? There have been small changes.  Trust in the US has dropped a bit from an Excellent +72 in June 2016. Russia has been steady at +9 last December and +6 in March. China significantly gained from a Bad -33 last September to a Neutral +9 in December, but was a disappointing -4 in March.  North Korea’s current -5 is the highest in five surveys since 2003.

Let us focus on Mindanao, the area which always gives DU30 his highest ratings. It has the lowest trust, among the four standard SWS survey areas, in the US (+34), Japan (+35), Australia (+29), and France (+9), as well as the highest trust in China (+8).  This does not mean that Mindanaoans have pivoted. They are the most willing to listen to the new foreign policy tune, but are not actually dancing to it.

Other areas have their own patterns of trust in foreign countries. The Visayas is the area with the most trust in the US (+68), and the least trust in Russia (0).  Balance-Luzon has the most trust in Australia (+42), and the least trust in China (Poor -11).  The National Capital Region (NCR) has the most trust in Japan (Very Good +61), France (+29), and Russia (+18), and the least trust in North Korea (-11).

The overseas worker factor matters.  In all areas of the Philippines, a significant proportion of families have a member working abroad—12 percent of families in both the NCR and the Visayas, and 11 percent of them in both Balance-Luzon and Mindanao, as of March 2011.

For families in all areas except Mindanao, the US is the most common location of these workers: the NCR 25 percent, Balance-Luzon 25 percent, and the Visayas 28 percent. Next most common is Saudi Arabia for families in the NCR (17 percent) and Balance-Luzon (12 percent), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for those in the Visayas (25 percent).

On the other hand, for Mindanao families with overseas workers, the most common locations are Saudi Arabia (31 percent) and the UAE (22 percent). Only 3 percent have a family member working in the US. These are the area-dimensions of the people-to-people factor in our foreign relations.

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TAGS: Duterte's foreign policy, Inquirer Opinion, Mahar Mangahas, Rodrigo Duterte, Social Climate, Social Weather Stations, SWS
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