MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Exporters Confederation president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. expressed concern over China's move to block exports of Philippine bananas and pineapples, saying this will be a big blow to the country's exports.
In an interview on radio dzMM, Ortiz-Luis noted that China "saved" Philippine exports during the global financial crisis when demand for exports in traditional markets such as U.S., Europe and Japan dropped.
"Sila ang nagsalba sa atin dun sa crisis, dahil sila ang sumalo sa nawalang market sa Japan, U.S. at Europe. So pagnawala sila ngayon, eh malaking dagok sa atin yan ngayon. Ganun kalaki ang exports sa kanila," he said.
China is now one of the top and fastest-growing export markets for Philippine goods. The U.S. and Japan are still the top destinations for exports, each with 15.5% share of the total exports in March 2012.
China is the 3rd largest export market for the Philippines during March. It accounted for 14.9% of the total exports, with shipments amounting to $642.07 million in March 2012, growing 27.8% from $502.58 million during the same month last year.
However, if China is combined with Hong Kong, which accounts for 9.1% of total exports, it would become the Philippines' top destination of exports with 24% share.
"Noong araw, 12-13 years ago, kinaclassify lang natin ang China as other destinations ng exports natin... Ngayon 14.9% ang China, di pa kasama ang Hong Kong at Macau, eh pagkasama sila eh number one na sila at palaki ng palaki," Ortiz-Luis said.
There were already expectations that China would become the Philippines' top trading partner by next year.
"Kung di nangyari ito, expectations namin towards the end of the year or next year, number one trading partner na natin sila," he added.
China has impounded Philippine fruit exports that allegedly carried pests, amid a tense stand-off between the two countries over the disputed Scarborough Shoal. China imported 300,000 tons of Philippine bananas worth $60 million last year.
Ortiz-Luis said many of the food exporters have been reporting cancellations, and are now afraid to send exports to China, out of fear of being rejected.
"Hindi naman automatic rejection. Wala pa naman ban na ini-issue pero time by time may tinatamaan na nare-reject. Nagkakatakutan na ngayon tumatanggap ng orders ang exporters," he said.
Ortiz-Luis Jr. is worried China might act on Philippine electronics exports next.
"I would not be surprised if all of a sudden, biglang magka-higpitan diyan. Kaya lang siguro di pa nag-hihigpit because may problema din sila if i-reject nila mga exports. Dahil ang mga nag-iimport doon, siguro iisa lang ang principal dahil pareho companya dito at doon, kaya mahirap ma-reject. I would not be surprised if time by time, if mga independents ay tamaan," Ortiz-Luis said.
Electronics accounted for 52.6% of the country's total exports revenue in March 2012, with $2.26 billion.