Malacañang believes China will be appreciated by Filipinos someday

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 21) — Majority of Filipinos may not trust China now – based on a recent survey – but Malacañang believes the sentiment will change in the future.

In a statement on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace is not surprised by the plunge in China's trust rating in Social Weather Stations' third quarter survey. Only 21 percent of adults interviewed in September said they had "much trust" in Beijing, while 54 percent said otherwise, yielding a score of -33, which is considered by the SWS as "bad." It is the least trusted among the countries included in the poll, which includes US, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam.

READ: Trust in China among Filipinos tumbles further in Q3

"[T]he Office of the President will neither court nor force any citizen to change his or her sentiments toward our giant neighbor in the North," Panelo said.

"It is in our belief, however, that China, like any other country, will be eventually appreciated by the Filipinos by reason of the President's independent foreign policy which has resulted in significant benefits favorable to the Philippines," he added.

Panelo reiterated that the South China Sea dispute is not "the sum total" of the Philippines' relationship with China.

"Verily, China "could even become a role model of the Philippines in reducing, if not totally eradicating, poverty," Panelo said.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, including areas Manila claims and occupies in the West Philippine Sea. The arbitral tribunal invalidated China's sweeping claim and recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in some areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, which China contests. The East Asian giant, however, rejects the landmark ruling and even asked the Philippines to set the dispute aside to make way for the planned joint oil and gas exploration.

President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized for nurturing ties with Chinese leader Xi Jinping despite the long-standing dispute.

Filipinos' trust in China also sank in June following the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a fishing vessel near Recto Bank. This underwater feature, also known as Reed Bank is being claimed by both the Philippines and China. The government has protested this incident and China's incursions in contested waters.

READ: Filipinos' trust in China sinks after Recto Bank incident – SWS