Roque to Filipinos: Give China a chance

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 3) — The strongest relationships take time to build.

This is how Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reacted to a December 2017 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, which found that Filipinos trust the U.S., Canada and Japan more than China.

According to the poll, which interviewed 1,200 adult Filipinos nationwide, the United States' net trust rating stayed at "very good" with an eight-point increase from September 2017 to +68.

Meanwhile, both Canada and Japan went from "good" to "very good," with the former going up 14 points to +55 in September 2015 — when it was last rated — and the latter increasing eight points from June 2017 for a record-high +54.

The SWS also found that China went up from "poor" to "neutral" with a 20-point increase from September 2017 to +7.

"It is because we've only started our very close relationship with the People's Republic of China under the administration of President Duterte," Roque said in a Friday Palace press briefing. "That's actually very good already that the Filipinos had a netural trust rating for China."

Roque also said the results for the U.S. and Japan are due to long-standing relations with these nations.

The Duterte administration has been pushing for closer ties with China, which is in a territorial dispute with the Philippines over parts of the South China Sea.

In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines against China's claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

Read: PH wins maritime arbitration case vs. China

The five-member Arbitral Tribunal upheld the Manila's position that China's "nine-dash line" maritime claim is excessive and encroached into the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The "nine-dash line" is China's purported historical boundary that covers about 85 percent of the South China Sea, including 80 percent of the Philippines' EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.

Although the government has proposed joint exploration with China in the disputed waters, Roque said on Thursday that there will be no co-ownership since the Philippines will "definitely not" recognize China's claimed sovereignty.

Read: Malacañang: No co-ownership in PH-China joint exploration of South China Sea

Despite this, Roque said on Friday that Filipinos should give China a chance.

"Sabi nila, magpapadala sila ng napakadaming turista," he said. "Sabi nila, magpapadala sila ng napakadaming kapital at mga negosyo. So tingnan po natin kung ano nga ang mangyayari sa kanilang mga pangako. Siyempre, kinakailangan ng panahon bago tayo maging BFF (best friends forever)."

[Translation: They said they would many tourists. They said they would bring in a lot of capital and business. So let's see what happens with their promises. Of course, we need time before we become BFFs.]