MANILA - China has lifted restrictions on banana and pineapple exports from the Philippines ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to Beijing later this month, the Filipino agriculture minister said.
Aside from the two fruits, which are major products of Duterte's home region of Mindanao, China will also be "opening up its market" to Philippine mangoes, coconut and dragon fruit as well as lapu-lapu (grouper), crabs, shrimps, prawns, tuna and bangus (milk fish), Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Friday.
"Two weeks before President Rody Duterte's State Visit, the Chinese government has announced that it will lift the suspension imposed earlier on Filipino companies exporting bananas and pineapple to the country," Piñol said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
China also "indicated that it would also increase the volume" of Philippine banana and pineapple exports, Piñol said.
China's Ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, also told Filipino officials that Philippine produce would be sold in major Chinese cities, Piñol said.
China has imposed tighter quarantines on Philippine bananas since a tense naval standoff at the Scarborough Shoal in 2012. Thousands of tons of the fruit were impounded and eventually destroyed in Chinese ports.
China is one of the biggest markets for Philippine bananas. In 2011, before the Scarborough standoff, it imported 300,000 bananas worth $60 million, according to data from the Bureau of Plant Industry.
Piñol said the "suspension" was lifted for the following companies: Sumifru, Banana Brothers, Inc., Evita Banana Trading Company, Inc., Nader and Ibrahim S/O Hassan Phils., Inc., Tagum Agricultural Development Trade Co., Inc., TVEM Links International Co., Stanfilco Division of DOLE Philippines, Inc., Phil pack, Continental Farm Corp., and Lapanday Diversified Products Corp.
Duterte's visit to China is seen as an attempt to reboot ties that have been strained by territorial wrangling in the resource-rich South China Sea. A United Nations-backed court in July ruled in favor of Manila and said that Beijing had no historic rights to the disputed waters.
The visit will also come as Duterte seeks to reassess the Philippines long-standing alliance with the United States while building ties with Washington's rivals, Beijing and Moscow.
Duterte this week said US President Barack Obama could "go to hell" for Washington's criticism of his bloody war on drugs while Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said the US "has failed" its treaty ally, the Philippines.