Russia eyed for PH bananas

By Delon Porcalla, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 06 2012 10:28 AM | Updated as of Sep 06 2012 09:14 PM

RUSSKY ISLAND, Vladivostok – Cebu businessmen are eyeing Russia as another market for bananas aside from the US and Japan, as the Philippines tries to recover from China’s ban on Philippine bananas.

Ambassador to Russia Alejandro Mosquera, whose jurisdiction extends to Armenia, Belarus and Ukraine, said that Filipino exporters of bananas, mangoes and other fruits would visit Vladivostok next week to lure potential buyers.

“I’d like to mention that this initiative comes from Cebu and this has been done through the efforts of the Russian Honorary Consul Armi Lopez Garcia. And I think a lot of things are still coming up,” he said.

“They’re coming here to Vladivostok to talk to potential buyers of our fruits. I think this is something exciting because this will be done here in Vladivostok,” Mosquera told the RTV Malacañang team that arrived here as part of the advance party of President Aquino, who will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit here.

Mosquera also expressed gratitude that the Philippines’ 35-year diplomatic, cultural and economic ties with Russia keeps on growing through the increased arrival of Russians tourists to the Philippines.

Department of Tourism records showed that around 4,000 Russian tourists visited the Philippines in 2007, and in 2011 the visitors from Russia increased to 21,000, proof that the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is gaining ground.

Profile of Russian visitors include families who stay for as long as two weeks and spend a lot of money. Among their favorite tourist spots are world-famous beaches in Boracay, Palawan, Bohol and the wakeboarding resort in Camarines Sur.

Mosquera said a Filipino tourism operator based here is in fact trying to arrange a direct flight from Manila to Valdivostok, which is shorter than taking the Moscow route, which is an eight-hour flight.

It only takes five hours to fly from Manila to Vladivostok, except that there is usually a stopover.

“We’d like to say Vladivostok is our entry point. It takes only five hours from Manila,” he said.

Mosquera said there are some Filipinas who are in Vladivostok as household service workers, but the Filipino community is increasing with former Filipino students in Moscow who speak Russian now employed in embassies and private companies.

“The other group of people that we have here are professionals. They are connected with the multinationals here or big Russian private companies. You might also want to note that we have some chefs here,” he said proudly.

“And they work in big hotels and restaurants. And of course, we also have the household service workers. I think the bulk of our kababayans are working with Russian households,” he said.

Highly skilled Filipinos in Vladivostok include engineers and machine operators who are mostly working in infrastructure projects in the nearby island of Sakhalin.

“There are private companies, Internet companies, we have contracts there. And they have hired our people. They are engineers, pipe fitters, operators of equipment, welders, and many other skilled people,” Mosquera disclosed.

In fact, some Filipinas are married to Russian citizens.

“At one time I think there are 50 and at one time there are a hundred people. And by the way, we also have Filipinos here in Vladivostok. We have some 10 Filipinos here. These Filipinos are married to the Russian nationals,” he said.