China and the Philippines — no longer BFFs?
As relations between China and the Philippines hit rock bottom over a little rock known as Huangyan Island to the former and Scarborough/Panatag Shoal to the latter, Chinese authorities seem intent on delivering a blow to their Southeast Asian neighbour where it hurts the most — the pocket. Just in: China Southern Airlines, one of the three major Chinese carriers, has announced a reduction of its flights to the Philippines, which it said was due to shrinking tourist numbers. Via Xinhua:
China Southern will reduce its number of flights between China’s Guangzhou city and Manila, capital of the Philippines, to just one a day on certain dates from May 26 to June 30. The airline normally operates two flights daily on the route.
A spokesman for the airline said the adjustment was made in accordance with the cancellation of “a large number of tourist groups” lately.
Major Chinese travel agencies have announced cancellation of package tours to the Philippines upon travel safety advice issued by the National Tourism Administration earlier this month. It came after the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines warned Chinese citizens of “massive anti-China demonstrations” related to the Huangyan Island incident.
The tourism administration on Sunday said almost all Chinese mainlanders on group tours will leave the Philippines by tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports that Chinese authorities have refused entry to some 1,500 containers of Cavendish bananas because of alleged diseases and pests:
Stephen Antig, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association—which groups 18 companies in Mindanao—said that as of 3 p.m. Thursday, the bananas were being left to rot at the ports of Dalian, Shanghai, and Xingang as Chinese authorities insisted on the country’s new phytosanitary rules for bananas arriving from the Philippines.
“Mindanao exporters feel we are being harassed,” Antig said, adding that it could be related to the standoff between the Philippines and China at Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
He said, however, that the exporters’ group did not want “to think of it as political because we are businessmen.”
China Daily, in a report that did not mention the Huangyan/Scarborough spat, says Philippine fruit imports are now subject to stricter inspection:
China’s top quality watchdog on Tuesday ordered stricter inspections on fruit imports from the Philippines after harmful organisms were found in several shipments, according to a notice posted on the website of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
Insects and bacteria have been found in pineapples, bananas and other fruits imported from the Philippines to ports in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Shandong since last year, the notice said.
Spiders, ants and aphids have also been found in fruit from the Philippines, it said.
Local authorities have been ordered to closely monitor and increase checks of fruit imported from the Philippines. Samples that contain any living species, have black spots or show signs of rotting must be sent to a laboratory for further testing.
If harmful organisms are found, the fruit will be returned or destroyed, it said.
Shenzhen border quarantine officers have found harmful organisms in 90 of the 358 shipments of fruit imported from the Philippines this year, statistics from Shenzhen Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau showed.
According to ABS-CBN, some 200,000 workers in the banana plantations of the Davao region will be hit hard if this does not get resolved soon.
China is the largest single market accounting for a quarter of the Philippines’ total banana exports. PhilExport, an umbrella organisation for Philippine exporters, notes however that no problems have been observed so far with dried mangoes, another major export to China.
In the midst of all the madness of the sabre-rattling on both sides of the border, vigilante netizens have been calling for the boycott of businesses in China supposedly owned by anti-Chinese Pinoys. Xinhua reports of a Chinese supermarket chain in Fujian that became the target of one such boycott:
Chinese media recently reported that Loida Nicolas Lewis, a Philippine-born US businesswoman who led worldwide protests against China over the Huangyan Island dispute on May 11, has also been operating a successful supermarket chain based in southeastern seaport city of Xiamen in Fujian province.
A call for a boycott posted at Sina Weibo, China’s most popular tweeting service, was forwarded 79,000 times as of Tuesday. The number of tweets related to “Beatrice” — the name of the supermarket — at Sina Weibo has grown to 400,000.
“While earning big money in China, the boss of Beatrice Group was organizing anti-China protests worldwide,” a netizen using a screenname “dehuocongrui” wrote. “Everybody should see through her and join the boycott.”
Li Feng, deputy general manager at Xiamen Beatrice Chain Stores Co Ltd, told Xinhua that the company is now fully Chinese-owned and no longer maintains relations with Lewis.
Records from the Xiamen Industry and Commerce Bureau showed that Lewis was chair of the board of Xiamen Beatrice Chain Stores Co Ltd from June 2005 to December 2009, when the company was jointly owned by the US-registered TLC Beatrice International Holdings and the Philippine-registered Multi-World Philippines International.
However, the two foreign owners sold Beatrice to a Chinese company, which then sold it to two local Chinese individuals in March 2010, records showed.
The company’s current owners — Shi Qi and Chen Shuiqing — do not know Lewis, Li said.
Shares on the Philippine Stock Exchange plunged 2% in active trading today.
Watch a Chinese reporter plant a flag on the disputed island: