Most of the Filipinos want their government to assert a right on the islands in the West Philippine Sea, a survey revealed Friday.
The survey by Social Weather Stations, a Philippines-based advocacy group, said that 87% of adult population of the country agreed that Manila “should assert its right to the islands in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.”
The body of water is commonly referred as South China Sea, where China is accused of expanding its military dominance. The countries surrounding the sea are often engaged in maritime dispute with Beijing.
Spread over 3.5 million square kilometers (1.35 million sq miles), the South China Sea is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes and covers a vast reserve of gas and oil.
In a decades-long dispute, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan challenge China’s claim over different patches of the body of water.
The U.S. says China was building military installations on artificial islands and reefs in the sea, which Beijing argues are necessary for its “self-defense”.
Beijing has accused Washington of “inflaming tension” by sending warships and military aircraft close to islands under China’s claims.
Surveyed between June 22 and 26, 87% of the respondents believed that Chinese fishermen “who destroy marine resources should be arrested” by the Philippines.
In early June, a Chinese boat allegedly struck a Filipino fishing vessel in the West Philippine Sea, reportedly abandoning the 22 distressed fishermen in the water.
The survey group conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults, 18-years-old and above, across the country.
“The area estimates were weighted by Philippine Statistics Authority medium-population projections for 2019 to obtain the national estimates,” the group added.