Filipinos attend a mass at a church in Manila. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: Eighty-four per cent of Filipinos want the Philippine government to assert sovereignty over areas it has claimed in the South China Sea, a private survey group said.

Eighty-four per cent of 1,200 respondents said the government should uphold the decision of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) last July that China’s entire claim of the South China Sea and its enhancement of rocks and shoals into artificial islands there were illegal, public opinion polling body Pulse Asia said.

The PCA also ruled last July that China should allow fishermen from other claimant countries in the South China Sea to fish in the Scarborough Shoal — 124 kilometres west of Zambales Provinces in central Luzon — which Beijing overtook following a standoff with Philippine vessels, in 2012.

The Philippine government elevated its complaint against China before PCA in 2013.

The survey was conducted between December 6 and 11, but Pulse Asia released it only on Friday.

The survey also found 47 per cent of Filipinos believe the Philippine-US military tie-up is beneficial and should remain strong.

The survey was taken after Duterte made a state visit to Beijing in October.

Analysts described Duterte’s visit to Beijing as a “pivot to China” at the expense of US-Philippine ties.

The survey showed that Duterte’s foreign policy does not sit well with the majority of Filipinos, Pulse Asia said.

Meanwhile, Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “What the president is doing is asserting it [Philippine sovereignty] in a different diplomatic style.”

“The Philippines is befriending all nations,” explained Alfred Crespo, a non-Catholic Christian-based political analyst.

Duterte has criticised former US President Barack Obama for reacting negatively to the Philippines’ anti-illegal drug trade campaign, which has killed 6,000 since July.

The police claimed responsibility for the deaths of 2,000 resisting drug users and pushers, but blamed drug syndicates for 4,000 deaths.

The police have been criticised for the death of a South Korean businessman who was a victim of kidnap-for-ransom by rogue policemen last October.