DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Chinese are not buying bananas from the Philippines, although China has allowed their entry, banana exporters said yesterday.
Stephen Antig, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director, told The STAR nobody in China is buying Philippine bananas that the Chinese government has allowed to be imported.
“Malacañang is saying it (China) is open, but nobody is buying,” he said. “The Chinese buyers are still not buying Philippine bananas. It is different when they say it is open, but the buyers are not buying.”
Antig said if no orders for bananas are made, the shipment shall be returned to the Philippines.
“It is not because the newspapers say China has already opened up and it is already all right to send bananas,” he said.
Antig said China is poised to send back about 100 container vans of Philippine bananas.
“And what we understand is that there are 240 container vans that are already on their way back to the Philippines,” he said. “These were the bananas that were left in the different ports in China and were not bought by their importers.”
Antig said the PBGEA is closely coordinating with the Bureau of Customs as to the arrival of the banana shipment that China has returned.
The banana industry players are on a “wait and see” stance, especially with the result of the trip of the special team of the Department of Agriculture that Bureau of Plant Industry Director Clarito Barron has led to talk with China.
Antig said the Chinese ban has affected more than 35,000 small banana growers.
“Those who do not know how to pray before are really praying hard these days that things would turn out right,” he said.
“Growing bananas is the bread and butter of these people. And their number is growing everyday. But we are now confronted with this problem with China.”
The industry has reportedly already incurred losses amounting to more than P2 billion since China stopped buying Philippine Cavendish bananas last March.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said China has allowed the entry of at least 170 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 the other hand, President Aquino said yesterday the Philippines was working to resolve with China the issue over Panatag Shoal. Speaking at the National Career Advocacy Congress in Manila, Aquino said only five percent of the country’s tourism would be affected if some tour packages were cancelled and that the Philippines could explore other markets.
“All of you who are here, you are proof that, we are no longer going to talk right?” he said. “We will just work. Our effort has results and the results will be beneficial to Filipinos.”
Valte said the government did not receive official notice about the suspension or cancellation of tour packages.
“We will try to get figures from the DOT (Department of Tourism) on the number of arrivals since the standoff at Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal),” she said.
Valte added the Department of Foreign Affairs had clarified the issue on the more than 70 Chinese vessels near Panatag Shoal and that Philippine special envoys would already be sent to China for tourism and investments.
“Again, our commitment from day one has always been to deescalate and to take it through diplomatic channels and we stand by that,” she said.
Valte said the DFA had already sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese on the presence of Chinese vessels near the shoal.
“We await feedback on that particular action and so far we will let DFA take the lead when it comes to disclosing the updates on this,” she said.
Valte said the Coast Guard was tasked to patrol the area and to enforce the fishing ban.
“We encourage them still to continue to take advantage of the fishing aggregating devices that have been set up by the BFAR ( Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources),” she said. – Edith Regalado, Aurea Calica