Durian-inspired museum soon to open in Davao City

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Durian-inspired museum soon to open in Davao City

FUTURISTIC. A durian-inspired museum, a component of the National Museum of the Philippines, is set to open in Davao City in 2024.

Courtesy of Davao City Information Office/Davao City Government Facebook

A futuristic-looking, durian-inspired museum is set to open in Davao City in 2024. Davao region is the Philippines' top producer of durian, and is hoping to export more of the fruit to China.

MANILA, Philippines – The National Museum of the Philippines and the city of Davao will soon open to the public a durian-inspired building which symbolizes the importance of the tropical fruit to the southern region’s history and economy.  

National Museum of the Philippines Director General Jeremy Barns and Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte signed on Wednesday, November 29, the certificate of turnover and acceptance of the National Museum of the Philippines-Davao.

It is expected to be called the National Museum of the Philippines in Davao City. The city’s Museo Dabawenyo will manage and operate the fifth floor of the building, independent of the National Museum of the Philippines. Museo Dabawenyo is run by the city mayor’s office in collaboration with the private sector.

“The five-story durian-inspired infrastructure will be the first component museum of the National Museum in Southeastern Mindanao Region and the fourth component museum in Mindanao after Butuan, Zamboanga, and Sulu. It will feature artworks, artifacts, and specimens that are important to both local and national histories,” said the Davao City information office. 

The P200-million building at the People’s Park in Palma Street, Davao City, was funded by the National Museum of the Philippines and the Office of the President during the administration of Rodrigo Duterte, a former Davao City mayor.

The futuristic-looking instagrammable building, expected to open in early 2024, is expected to draw tourists. 

Last July, the National Museum of the Philippines inaugurated its 16th component museum – National Museum of the Philippines-Cebu – in the city’s Old Customs building with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos.

“This is in line with our national agenda to promote tourism and nurture our national identity…. It is a milestone, not only for the Queen City of the South and the whole Province of Cebu, but for the entire country, as the opening of this museum brings to the fore our rich natural, cultural, and artistic treasures”, the President said at the opening. 

Other component museums in the National Museum of the Philippines’ pipeline are in Baler, Aurora; Clark, Pampanga; and in Victorias City, Negros Occidental, among others.

The component museum building in Aurora will rise in the Baler Convention Center. The former Clark Air Base Hospital will be reused as the National Museum of the Philippines-Clark. The Victorias City Hall, which will focus on Negros’ sugar-making history, will serve as the component museum in Negros Occidental. 

These are all part of the National Museum’s effort to bring it closer to people in local areas, as well as promote Philippine national and local history, culture and the arts.

China market

Davao region is the Philippines’ biggest producer of durian, accounting for 78% of the country’s total production of 73,876 metric tons in 2021, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Chinese demand for the “king of the fruit” has risen in recent years as the tropical delicacy has become a status symbol. It’s being used as an “exquisite gift,” including for newlyweds, symbolizing wealth, abundance and prosperity, the DTI said. 

In its Durian Global Trade Overview 2023, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations said durian exports have gone up 10 times in the past two decades, from around 80,000 tons in 2003 to 870,000 tons in 2022. 

China is the world’s biggest importer, buying 95% of global exports, followed by Singapore, the FAO said.  

The Philippines exported its first batch of fresh durian to China from April to May this year with shipments totaling 586 metric tons. The durian “penetrated Huizhan market in Shanghai and Gaobeidian market in Hebei Province for the northern market,” said the DTI.

Davao Region exports first batch of durian to China

Davao Region exports first batch of durian to China

“This is a significant progress that comes with vast economic potential,” said Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Shanghai Commercial Counselor Glenn Peñaranda last October. “The export of fresh Durian along with other agricultural produce, we are given the opportunity to generate more exports to China and to also promote collaboration including investments in production and the value chain.”

During President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s state visit to China in January 2023, the two countires signed the “Protocol of the Phytosanitary Requirements for Export of Fresh Durians from the Philippines to China,” which opens up the Chinese market to 50,000 metric tons of fresh durian from the Philippines. 

After the signing, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said that durian would be initially exported from a list of registered farms in major durian production areas of Davao City, Davao del Sur, and North Cotabato. The initiative was expected to generate at least 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Dole (Shanghai) Fruits and Vegetables Trading Company Limited/Dole China, Prestige International Company Limited, Shanghai Goodfarmer Group, and the Dashang Group are the Chinese companies that had made purchase commitments with Philippine companies worth $260 million for 2023, the DA said in January.

Davao’s most famous durian variety is “Golden Puyat,” which the DTI said is cheaper than Musang King, a durian variety exported by Malaysia to China. 

Way behind Thailand

Although the Philippines has started to generate export revenues from the Chinese market, it is way behind what Thailand has achieved. 

The wide gap is symbolic of the poor state of agriculture in the Philippines vis-a-vis Thailand and its southeast Asian durian competitors. 

According to the FAO trade report, the export market for durian has been “experiencing vibrant growth” in the last 20 years, driven principally by demand from China. 

Thailand has been, by far, the biggest beneficiary of China’s appetite for durian.

“On average, more than 90% of global durian exports are supplied by Thailand, and some 3 percent each by Vietnam and Malaysia,” the FAO said. “Small export quantities also originate in the Philippines and Indonesia.”

Per capita consumption of durian in China has risen 13% per annum from 2006 to 2016, according to Durian Industry Association of Davao City president Emmanuel Belviz. 

The top five durian-producing countries in 2021 were Indonesia (36%), Thailand (32%), Vietnam (17%), Malaysia (10%), Philippines (1.98%), and Cambodia (0.98%), Belviz said at the first Philippine Asia Durian Summit held in October in Davao City.

China has set strict phytosanitary standards for durian, and has opened up its market to only a few countries.

The FAO said Thailand’s durians are popular in China “due to their sweetness and quality features.” 

It added that the opening of a high-speed rail link between Laos and China in December 2021 allowed Thai durian to reach the Chinese market in a shorter time, improving freshness. 

The FAO said the value of Thai durian exports was an average of $3.3 billion in 2021 to 2022. Due to durian’s “exceptionally high average export unit values” compared to other fruits, durian ended up as Thailand’s “third largest agricultural export behind natural rubber and rice. Natural rubber generated $3.9 billion while rice generated $3.7 billion in export revenues for Thailand. 

The national government and local governments in the Davao region have made efforts to improve the durian industry. For instance, the First Philippine Asia Durian Summit was held last October at the SMX Convention Center in SM Lanang Premier, Davao City. Best practices, the latest machineries, advances in durian production and farm techniques were taken up in presentations and workshops from local and international specialists.

Durian was also the focus of the Philippines’ pavilion in the China International Import Expo (CIIE) 2023 held in Shanghai early this month. – 


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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.