Philippines looks to China for ‘windfall’ when fruit ban ends
China will lift a Philippine fruit ban and explore broader farm and fisheries imports and investments in its fledgling farm sector, the Philippine agriculture minister said, signaling serious intent by Manila to beef up business with Beijing.
China would resume shipments from 27 blacklisted fruit exporters as a “gift” when President Rodrigo Duterte visits with a business delegation from Oct. 1921, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol told Reuters yesterday. “I would look at that as a goodwill move,” he said. “The atmosphere would be positive.”
Pinol’s comments suggest Duterte is following through on his promises to build a commercial alliance with China, made repeatedly in speeches in which he has angrily alluded to cutting ties with the United States and reaching out to its geopolitical rivals. The trade talk with China is hugely symbolic and marks a stark turnaround in ties since a July arbitration ruling in The Hague went in Manila’s favor and angered Beijing by invalidating its claim to almost the entire South China Sea.
Duterte is forging ahead, even as mistrust lingers over China’s four-year blockade of Filipino fishermen at the Scarborough Shoal. Pinol said ending the ban on bananas and pineapples would boost demand in other parts of a farm sector that has seen its output contract for two successive quarters. “Since we are not involved in the diplomatic issues, we are just looking at this as a windfall for Philippine agriculture because China, we have to admit, is our biggest market for our agriculture products,” he said by phone. “The interest of China in importing fisheries products will spur development,” he said, adding the demand would see Filipino farmers ramp up their output.
Agriculture accounts for about onetenth of the Philippine economy. Farm output dropped 4.4 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, followed by a 2.1 percent contraction in the second quarter, according to government data. Together with the impact of the El Nino weather pattern, the ban, he said, had seen earnings from banana shipments down by half in 2015 from about $1.1 billion in 2014. —Reuters