In a recent survey conducted by the Philippines’ Social Weather Stations (SWS), 8 in 10 Filipinos are afraid of a possible armed conflict between the Philippines and China over the disputed Scarborough Shoal islands in the South Chin Sea.
84% of respondents said they were worried about armed conflict with China, and 49% said they “worried a great deal”, said the SWS.
The survey was conducted from March 20 to 23, using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 respondents throughout the Philippines.
The finding was consistent with that of previous polls in September 2012, September 2013, and June 2014, the SWS noted.
Scarborough Shoal, locally called Bajo de Masinloc, is located some 125 nautical miles off Zambales. It is part of a set of disputed isles in the South China Sea that the Philippines has a long standing dispute with China and other ASEAN nations about.
To settle the dispute with China, Manila has filed for an arbitration case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
The standoff started in April 2012 when the Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar apprehended Chinese poachers in the area.
Since then, China has maintained its presence through its coast guard, barring local fishermen’s access to the uninhabited shoal.
Internationally, the Philippines has dropped 7 places in a global peace ranking, falling to 141 out of 162 countries because of the potential for conflict in the South China Sea and the Masasapano tragedy in January in which 44 national police commandos were killed when fighting with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels.
In the Global Peace Index 2015 report issued on Wednesday by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the Philippines was in last place in the ASEAN rankings and in penultimate place in the Asia-Pacific rankings, just ahead of North Korea.