PH: China's reported move to destroy bananas won't hurt ties

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government said on Sunday, March 27, that it has yet to confirm reports that China destroyed 35 tons of bananas exported by the Philippines.

A Reuters report quoting Chinese state TV had said that Customs authorities in Shenzhen destroyed "substandard bananas" from the Philippines "due to excessive pesticide use."

A Twitter post from the People's Daily, an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, also showed photos of the bananas, supposedly worth $33,000, about to be mashed and buried.

35 tonnes of Philippine bananas worth $33k are destroyed in S China's Shenzhen border Fri for high pesticide residue — People's Daily,China (@PDChina) March 26, 2016


But in an interview over government-run radio dzRB, Philippine Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said that the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Plant Industry have yet to confirm the reports.

But even if confirmed, Coloma also said that for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the quantity of the bananas in question is "too small" to affect trade relations between Manila and Beijing.

"The reported quantity, 35 metric tons, is too small as it is equivalent to only two containers or around 2,700 boxes with value estimated at FOB 1.4 million pesos only. This quantity is too small in terms of the overall Philippines-China trade relations," Coloma quoted DTI Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr as saying.

The DTI also cited sanitation as a possible reason for China's move.

"We surmised that the subject shipment did not meet the rigid sanitary and phytosanitary inspections of China and were rejected and destroyed routinely as part of SPS procedures to prevent contamination," Coloma again quoted Cristobal.

"The quantity is not unusual in as far as rejections are concerned in the normal course of business. It is also possible that the shipment was rejected due to levels of pesticides exceeding maximum residue limit or MRL."

Coloma also stressed that the DTI is following the rules set by the World Trade Organization regarding SPS or "sanitary and phytosanitary inspection," which is a must during quality control inspection. 

China is one of the Philippines' top trading partners.

The two countries, however, are locked in a maritime dispute over the South China Sea, or what Manila calls the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Philippines and China: Rivals at sea, allies in trade?