An upbeat Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua told members of media last Friday that they expect President Duterte’s four-day state visit to China to be “fruitful.”
He said at least a dozen Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) are being worked out to be signed during the Oct. 18 to 21 visit and one of them will be on increased importation of bananas, pineapples and dragon fruits.
In a press conference at Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City, four days before Duterte’s much-awaited state visit to China, Zhao said, “President Duterte has told me repeatedly that he is concerned about Filipino farmers particularly those farmers who are growing bananas or other tropical fruits. In response to this concern, the Chinese side has decided to increase the imports of tropical fruits, such as bananas, pineapples. As a matter of fact, among all ASEAN countries PH banana and pineapple have already constituted a very large percentage in the Chinese market. If I recall correctly, bananas constitute about 82 percent and pineapples constitute over 70 percent but still we would like to import
He said, dragon fruit, “The red one, is very popular in China but the quantity that you are exporting to China is quite limited.“
With 1.4 billion population, Zhao said, “I can guarantee whatever quantity or amount you are producing (dragon fruit), we can take it because the Chinese market is the largest market (in the world.)"
In 2012, following the decision of the government of President Benigno Aquino to internationalize the conflict over Scarborough Shoal and re-ignited by the arrest of Chinese fishermen by a Philippine warship, China imposed stricter quarantine requirements for bananas coming from the Philippines, resulting in tons and tons of bananas rotting in China’s ports and the displacement of thousands of banana farm workers.
Zhao said China is also interested in agricultural cooperation and is willing to share techniques and technology with Filipino farmers in rice production.
Apart from agriculture, Zhao also said there will be agreement on fisheries.
“We would like to import high-end fishery products such as Lapu-Lapu, shrimp, crab or also some low-end marine products you have what you call bangus,” he said.
The fisheries cooperation will cover aquaculture, fishing technology, storage and marketing.
There will be an “MOU on fishery because we know Pres. Duterte is concerned about fishermen and we have the market and we have the capital and we have the interest,“ the envoy said.
When talking about fishery agreement with China, what comes to mind of Filipinos is the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration has declared Scarborough Shoal, 124 nautical miles from the shores of Zambales, a traditional fishing ground for Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese fishermen. Access to the area, however, is controlled by at least three Chinese ships permanently stationed there.
Duterte has always said foremost in his agenda in rekindling relations with the Chinese is for Filipino fishermen to be allowed to fish again in Scarborough Shoal. How will he be able to do that without recognizing Chinese sovereignty in the area will be a challenge to his untested diplomatic skills.
In his pre-departure speech in Davao City Saturday, Duterte assured the public there will be “no bargaining of our territories whether within the 12 or the 200 (nautical miles), it will remain a special concern. And I will be very careful not to bargain anything for after all, I cannot give what is not mine and which I am not empowered to do by any stretch of imagination.”
He further said,” We will talk and we will, maybe, paraphrase everything in the judgment and set the limits of our territories, the special economic zones. “
We are curious about this. We will follow this closely.
Zhao said there will also be MOUs on tourism and illegal drug enforcements.
Now, take note that these are MOUs: Memorandum of Understanding. These are not MOAs: Memorandum of Agreement.
In almost all cases, it’s a long way from MOUs to MOAs and to actual implementation.
But it’s a good start.
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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.