Shoal Tension Affecting Banana Exports?

MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang on Friday expressed optimism that the tension between the Philippines and China on the Panatag Shoal will not affect trade relations between the two countries after some banana exporters in Mindanao reported that China has become stricter in accepting bananas from the Philippines.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also said the Palace will relay the concern of banana exporters to the appropriate government agencies.

"As far as the relationship is concerned, we continue to talk (with China) because it's just one facet of the relationship that we have with China," Valte said.

"We have quite a broad relationship with them and we hope it will not affect the other facets of our relations," she said.

The Palace official however said that if banana exporters would have any difficulty sending in their products to China, they are encouraged to send a notice to the appropriate government agencies.

"If they run into any difficulty, it's just a matter of letting the government agency know para matulungan sila sa pag facilitate ng mga exports nila [so they would be assisted in the facilitation of their exports]," Valte said.

"This particular issue is just one facet of the relationship that we have and so far, dun sa other areas of cooperation natin, okay naman [we are doing fine in other areas of cooperation]," she said.

Banana exporters in Mindanao had expressed fear that they will be affected by the tension between the Philippines and China in the Panatag Shoal after China reportedly imposed tighter rules on banana shipments coming from the Philippines, noting that China rejected some shipments after it allegedly failed in the quarantine tests.

The Philippines maintains that the Panatag Shoal, otherwise known as the Scarborough Shoal, is part of Philippine territory as it is within the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Malacanang earlier said the Philippines is determined to fight for its sovereignty on the Scarborough Shoal, where there is a current standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels after a Philippine surveillance aircraft reported the alleged poaching of some Chinese vessels in the area. (Madel R. Sabater)

"The Senate can ask the Ombudsman to put off its investigation into the bank accounts of Chief Justice, especially if they think the Ombudsman's probe would muddle the investigation that the Senate has begun already," Jimeno said.

The defense panel said they believe the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the case since under the Constitution it is the Senate that has the right to try cases of impeachable officers.

Just as Senator-judge Franklin Drilon surmised, Salvador agreed that the chief justice can decide to go up to the SC and ask for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the Ombudsman's probe or just file a case of grave abuse of discretion against the Ombudsman.

"But either way, the Chief Justice has been mum on the issue. We do not know what his actions on the Ombudsman's order would be," Salvador said.

But Morales' letter to the Chief Justice ordering him to explain in his alleged $10-million dollar account only shows how flawed the verified impeachment complaint filed by the House prosecutors against him.

"The letter of the Ombudsman to the Chief Justice only shows that the impeachment complaint filed by the House prosecutors is weak. Because it is clear that they are looking for concrete evidence against him just now when they have already filed a case. They should have done a thorough investigation in the first place before the filed the complaint," said another lawyer, Rico Paolo Quicho.

Quicho said it is clear that in baring the alleged dollar accounts, the Ombudsman merely wants Corona's camp to "volunteer information" for which they have no details to back up with.

"They confirm the existence of the account but what is the nature of the account? Does it still exists? Is it a joint account? A trust account? A checking account? ...Why should we claim it (exist) when they haven't proved i?. He who alleged must prove it," Quicho pointed out. [Hannah L. Torregoza]