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Stalemate at Panatag going bananas

Women wash Cavendish bananas ready for export. PHOTO BY PINOY GONZALES/PDI CONTRIBUTOR

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine bananas are the best in the world, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario declared on Saturday. And they are “perfectly safe.”

But there are 150, not 1,500, containers loaded with Cavendish banana being held by authorities at three ports in China.

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“Secretary of Agriculture [Proceso Alcala] corrected [the number of containers],” Del Rosario said in a text message.

“The Department of Agriculture is sending more personnel [to China] to monitor phytosanitary procedures,” he added.

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Stephen Antig, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association—which groups 18 companies in Mindanao—reported on Friday that as of 3 p.m. Thursday, the bananas were being left to rot at the ports of Dalian, Shanghai, and Xingang as Chinese authorities insisted on the  new phytosanitary rules for bananas arriving from the Philippines.

Chinese authorities reportedly tightened inspection rules after finding that bananas shipped earlier by Mindanao growers showed signs of disease. But the disease allegedly found is associated only with coconut.

Asked if he thought the clampdown was related to the five-week-old standoff between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal, Del Rosario said, “I think the first order of the day is to establish to the whole world that our banana exports are absolutely the best and are perfectly safe.”

Malacañang also played down a link between the Scarborough dispute and the new inspection rules in China for Philippine fruit exports.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the problem started even before the Scarborough Shoal standoff.

“It appears this is a regulatory issue so let’s leave it at that so this can resolved,” Valte said.

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TAGS: Agriculture, Bananas, business, Cavenish bananas, Foreign affairs, Panatag Shoal, Phil-Sino Relations, Philippines-China relations, Scarborough Shoal, territorial disputes
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