Philippines works to heal banana split with China

The Philippine government said Sunday it was working to resolve mass delays of Philippine fruit exports to China, amid a tense stand-off between the two countries over disputed maritime territory.

Philippine fruit export leaders have been quoted as saying that shipments, especially bananas, were rotting in Chinese ports because pests had been discovered in some produce, prompting stricter quarantine inspections.

President Benigno Aquino's spokeswoman Abigail Valte said: "We are confident that this can be resolved given that our banana exports have already passed the stringent (standards) in Japan."

The agriculture and trade departments as well as the plant industry bureau were talking with their Chinese counterparts on how to resolve the problem, she said.

With total shipments worth $470.96 million last year, bananas are the Philippines's second-largest agricultural commodity export after coconuts, according to government data.

China is the Philippines' second-largest banana market after Japan.

The fruit issue first came up a month before Chinese maritime surveillance vessels prevented the Philippine navy from arresting Chinese fishermen on a disputed South China Sea shoal in April, sparking a tense stand-off.

Valte told reporters that the fruit matter was "a regulatory issue," and did not link it to the month-long face-off over the Scarborough Shoal, a group of rocky outcroppings claimed by both countries.

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