A majority of Filipinos back the Philippine government's move to challenge China's territorial claims over the South China Sea before an international arbitration court, according to the results of a poll released yesterday.
The poll also showed that Filipinos did not trust China much.
Philippine pollster Social Weather Stations said 81 per cent of Filipinos it surveyed backed last January's decision to challenge Beijing's claims in the South China Sea in the UN-backed tribunal.
Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the results proved "that taking a principled stance, one that is based on respecting the rule of law and pursuing a peaceful settlement of disputes, strongly resonates with the Filipino people".
Partly commissioned by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, the nationwide survey of 1,550 respondents was held from December 1 to 16.
Releasing the results, the president of the polling company, Mahar Mangahas, said the survey showed a high awareness level of the South China Sea dispute.
Some 73 per cent of respondents said they were aware of the dispute and 61 per cent said they knew the Philippines had filed a case before the UN tribunal.
Mangahas said respondents had given China a net trust rating of minus 17 per cent, the lowest rating among six nations with whom the Philippines has important dealings.
He said previous surveys had shown that China's trust rating had fallen into negative territory in 2012.
In the latest survey, the US topped the "most trustworthy" list with 82 per cent of respondents choosing the country. Australia was next, chosen by 53 per cent of those surveyed. Japan was chosen by 47 per cent of respondents, Taiwan by 11 per cent and Malaysia by 8 per cent.
The survey was held after the US had responded in a big way following Typhoon Haiyan. The country sent aircraft, ships and troops to help out with rescue work. Mangahas said the trust survey was part of the pollster's regular survey and had not been commissioned by the Philippine government.
The survey results came as China condemned US Pacific Air Force commander Herbert Carlisle for his "irresponsible remarks" over a possible declaration by Beijing of an air defence zone over the South China Sea.
Beijing set up an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea in November.
Amid concern Beijing might do the same to assert territorial claims in the South China Sea, Carlisle said on Sunday that such a step would be "very provocative".
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying hit back yesterday, saying that setting up an air defence identification zone was the right of any nation to exercise.
"Relevant officials should reflect carefully on what standing they have to make any irresponsible remarks," she said.