MANILA People in the Philippines still trust the United States far more than China, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday, despite President Rodrigo Duterte's recent outpouring of anti-American rhetoric and his sudden overtures towards old rival Beijing.
Though trust in both countries had declined slightly since the last survey in June, a Social Weather Stations poll from Sept. 24 to 27 showed 55 percent of Filipinos had "little trust" in China, versus 11 percent who had doubts about the U.S.
Just over three-quarters, or 76 percent, of the 1,200 respondents had "much trust" in the United States, compared to 22 percent who felt the same about China. The poll did not ask respondents to explain their views.
Duterte visits China on Tuesday, accompanied by a business delegation of at least 200, as he looks to open a new commercial alliance with Beijing that he says aims to boost the Philippine economy and diversify a foreign policy too dependent on Washington.
He has railed ferociously about the longtime ally and former colonial power and questioned its loyalty. He has complained of being dictated to about his deadly war on drugs by President Barack Obama, whom he told to "go to hell".
Last week Duterte called Obama, the European Union and United Nations "fools" for criticising his narcotics crackdown, and said he would "humiliate" them if they accepted his invitation to probe alleged summary executions.
Some Americans in the Philippines say his outbursts have left many of their countrymen, and U.S. businesses, jittery.
The last SWS poll showed an 81 percent rating of "much trust" for the United States with just nine percent having "little trust". Feelings about China were better at that time, with 27 percent having high trust and 51 percent little trust.
That poll, conducted after Duterte's election but prior to his taking office, preceded a July ruling by an arbitration court in the Hague that dealt a blow to China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea, in a case brought by Manila.
China refuses to recognise the ruling.
In comments likely to have irked the Chinese leadership, Duterte has said his new foreign policy shift showed a change in Philippines-China ties but he would not bargain with it over maritime sovereignty and would raise the issue of the ruling.
Duterte's hostility towards the United States and aggressive courting of China, so soon after it lost a landmark court decision, has perplexed much of the international community.
Some experts say his apparent unilateral decision to consider dismantling a decades-old U.S. defence alliance risks jolting a region concerned about Beijing's rise and the chance of waning U.S. influence under a new White House leadership.
(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)