[PHOTO - A banana stall in Manila. Philippine banana exports to China have been subject to stricter inspection amid a territorial dispute. (File Photo/CFP) NEWS REPORT BELOW]

MANILA, MAY 26, 2012 (TRIBUNE) By Fernan J. Angeles - Far from what Malacaang officials claim, the trade sanction that China slapped on the Philippine exports has yet been fixed even as the clearance that the Philippine agriculture officials got for the banana exports from the Chinese authorities isnt an assurance of a continuing trade partnership between the two countries.

No less than the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) shrugged off statements issued by deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte boasting of what has been referred to as another government accomplishment in securing the clearance for the entry of some 190 containers of Philippine

banana exports into Chinese territory.

While PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig confirmed that their banana exports, which were barred from entering China three weeks ago, have indeed been allowed to go past the Chinese ports, there is still no assurance that their fruit exports most of which have already found rotten, would be sold.

He added some 240 container vans containing their banana exports are already on their way back to the Philippines.

There havent been any takers for our banana exports. The Chinese are not buying bananas from the Philippines, although China has allowed its entry, Antig said in an interview over a Davao-based radio station.

Malacaang keeps on saying China is open, but nobody is buying. The Chinese buyers are still not buying Philippine bananas. It is different when they say it is open, but the buyers are not buying.

The Philippine-based banana exporters, who claim to have incurred a combined loss amounting to at least P2 billion, are expecting their shipments return to the Philippines anytime soon because they have got any order anyway.

They have also stopped sending bananas to China while some 240 container vans containing the rotten fruits are due to return this week.

Amid the losses incurred by the Philippine banana exporters, Malacaang is set to announce Monday an assistance package for them.

The government, however, did not say whether the assistance program would include the 35,000 small banana growers from whom the exporters get their commodities on a consignment basis.

Valte said China has allowed the entry of at least 190 container vans of Philippine bananas.

The team of the Department of Agriculture is still in China, she said.

The agreements that we shared with you the other day still stand, that before the exports leave the country there will be double checking. And once the (bananas) get there, there will be a joint inspection to be conducted by both sides.

On top of the assistance, the government is exploring other markets.

Malacaang insiders said government emissaries have been talking to Singapore authorities for a possible trade partnership that would involve fruit exports from Mindanao.

Also, training interventions are being set up to turn into agricultural feeds ripe bananas that have failed to make it to the Chinas market due to its sudden implementation of stricter quarantine measures.

Secretary Joel Villanueva, director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), in a statement, said he has instructed their offices in Southern Mindanao regions (Regions XI and XII) to gather relevant data needed to develop an alternative market for the countrys banana growers amid the problem in China.

Tesda is taking a proactive position and is now simultaneously gathering the relevant data needed to prepare for introducing an alternative market for the countrys huge banana produce, he added.

Tapping the manufacture of agricultural feeds, he said, is one option that banana producers can venture into to guarantee that the fruit could be turned into profit.

Since March this year, China has tightened requirements for the entry of fruits after it claimed it had found pests in bananas from the Philippines. Banana growers said they have lost at least P1.44 billion since the restrictions were imposed.

According to the National Statistics Office, the Philippines exported over two billion kilograms of bananas valued at $472.4 million. Of the total, 403.4 million kilograms, valued at $85.283 million, went to China.

China is a major market for banana exports. It also purchases pineapples and papaya from the Philippines.

Banana feeds are processed through natural drying. Using multi-purpose dryers, Tesda said workers and planters can efficiently and quickly convert the bananas into feeds, an alternative by-product of the fruit.

Villanueva said workers would undergo training on the complete process of making feeds from bananas, using the available technology for better productivity.

We have to find alternatives like diversifying our markets and making new produce to make the industry less vulnerable to shocks, he added.

Rotting bananas need not go to waste. We just have to tap the skills of our workers and the right technology to create an opportunity out of this event, Villanueva added.

Earlier, banana producers and exporters in Mindanao said that they are considering tapping the governments feeding program, as well as the domestic market, for the bananas that were not sold to China. Jason Faustino and Fernan J. Angeles


China allows Philippines to sell bananas; nobody is buying Staff Reporter 2012-05-27 12:23 (GMT+8)

[PHOTO -Philippine bananas on display on a supermarket shelf in Changsha]

While Beijing has again allowed qualified Philippine bananas to enter the Chinese market, few people in the country are buying the imported fruit, reports the Philippine Star.

Stephen Antig, executive director of the Philippine Banana Plantation and Export Industry Association, was reported as saying that if few orders are placed, whole shipments of bananas will be returned to the Philippines.

Since March, inspection and quarantine authorities in various Chinese ports have repeatedly quarantined pests found on fruit imported from the Philippines. China later stepped up examinations of fruit imports. The Philippine banana industry is worried about how the stricter examinations will affect business.

The lack of interest in Philippine bananas is no doubt the result of a standoff between Beijing and Manila over Scarborough Shoal, a group of tiny islands that lie roughly 220 kilometers from the Philippines. The standoff began on April 10 when two Chinese fishery administration ships were deployed to prevent the Philippine navy from arresting and detaining Chinese fishermen who had been apprehended in an area, which is claimed by the two sides.

Antig also said that China intends to return about 100 boxes of Philippine bananas. He added that, to his knowledge, 240 containers of bananas are currently being returned to the Philippines. As Chinese importers do not want to buy them, nobody has asked about the bananas, which were been sent to various ports in China.

Bananas are the Philippines' fifth-largest agricultural export; of these, half are exported to China. In 2011, the Philippines accounted for 85% of China's total imports of bananas.

They are concerned about the development of the conflict of Scarborough Shoal might also impact on banana exports.


PNoy to give banana growers a hand Amita Legaspi, GMA News May 28, 2012 4:39pm

President Benigno Aquino III, responding to the stringent phytosanitary concerns of China, has ordered government agencies to ensure that packaging warehouses and facilities of small-scale banana exporters are up to world-class standards.

“The President has already given the instructions to Department of Agriculture to assist the small players in making sure that they are compliant with international standards as to our exports,” said Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte at a press briefing Monday.

Valte said DA and Bureau of Plant Industry personnel will go to the warehouses to check and inspect on the processes of small-scale exporters and they will determine how they can be assisted further.

“The assistance makes sure that they meet the standards that are required. So it will start from ‘yung packaging warehouses po nila to make sure that they are compliant with the standards,” she said.

However, Valte explained that the guidance and assistance to be given by the DA and BPI is different from the assistance package being crafted by the economic team.

Last week, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the economic team is expected to submit to the President an assistance package for banana growers.

Valte noted that there is no problem with major exporters as their facilities have already passed international standards.

“Wala po silang problema dahil world class naman po ‘yung mga standards nila. As we have said, nag-e-export po tayo sa Japan whose standards are very stringent and we meet those standards,” she said.

Chinese agriculture officials had earlier intercepted and blocked 40-foot containers of bananas from the Philippines, claiming the fruits were infested by Aonidiella comperei, a type of worm more commonly found in coconuts.

The banana blockage is seen as a facet of the escalating tensions between China and the Philippines over the Panatag Shoal

Bananas are the Philippines' no. 2 agriculture commodity export after coconuts, earning about $720 million a year. According to the DA, the banana sector directly employs some 240,000 workers.— DVM, GMA News

from inquirer

Sonia Brady named envoy to China By Norman Bordadora Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III named a veteran diplomat as the country’s ambassador to China amid a tense standoff over disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a presidential spokesperson said Saturday.

Sonia C. Brady (photo), 70, who served as ambassador to Beijing from 2006 to 2010, was named to her old post amid a growing clamor for a skilled diplomat to handle the frayed ties with China caused by the territorial dispute.

The President wanted “someone who is already familiar with the politics and the culture of that country. That person can hit the ground running,” said spokesperson Abigail Valte.

“Given the complexities of our relationship with China right now, it has to really be somebody who is the best we can produce,” Mr. Aquino said in an earlier interview when asked about his search for a new ambassador to China.

Brady, however cannot assume the post until Congress approves her appointment.

President Aquino’s last nominee to the post, family friend Domingo Lee, went through a rough time in the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) despite the urgent need for a diplomatic representative in Beijing, given the territorial issues in the region. Congress refused to approve the posting, saying that Lee was inexperienced.

Lee opted out after the CA again deferred his appointment before Congress went on recess. He has since been appointed special envoy to China for tourism.

Another special envoy to China, Cesar Zalamea, is in charge of trade affairs.

“Brady has been to China. We expect her to use her experience and contacts to provide added insight and understanding of Chinese actions and policies,” said Secretary Ricky Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

The career appointment came in the wake of the country’s protests over Chinese incursions into undisputed Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea. There is also that standoff between the Philippines and China over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.

Relations between the two countries worsened after Chinese ships blocked Philippine vessels from arresting Chinese fishermen in April.

Both countries have deployed vessels near the disputed Panatag Shoal for more than a month to press their conflicting claims to the area.

China claims the shoal along with most of the West Philippine Sea, even up to the coasts of its Asian neighbors, while the Philippines claims the shoal as being well within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

As ambassador to Beijing, Brady has concurrent jurisdiction over North Korea and Mongolia.

Brady has been an adviser on foreign affairs since Aug. 19, 2011. She was foreign affairs undersecretary for policy from 2003 to 2006.

No stranger to China, she also served as third secretary and vice consul and was later second secretary and consul from 1976 to 1978.

She was also a special assistant before becoming an assistant secretary in the Department of Foreign Affair’s Office of Policy and Coordination from 1999 to 2002.

Brady was a director in the Office of the Asia Pacific from 1988 to 1992 and had been assigned to the Office of Political Affairs from 1968 to 1976.

The career diplomat from Quezon has a degree in journalism from the University of Santo Tomas, from which she graduated magna cum laude in 1962. She earned her foreign-service degree at the University of the Philippines a year later.

She obtained a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Southern California in 1987. With an AFP report

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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