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24 May 2012

Philippine bananas cleared by China

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said 170 40-footer vans with fresh Philippine bananas previously held have been cleared by Chinese quarantine officials.
The DA chief received the favorable development from Director Clarito Barron of the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry, who is currently in Beijing as head of a three-man Philippine quarantine team. They were dispatched to join their Chinese counterparts in inspecting the container vans with fresh Philippine bananas that were allegedly infested with scale insect.
“Four days ago, around 30–40 containers were already given a go signal to enter the Chinese market, as their quarantine officials did not find pests in the shipment. Yesterday, reports from Director Barron said a total of 170 containers were already given clearance,” Secretary Alcala said.
He reiterated that China has not imposed a ban on Philippine bananas.
“Actually, our products were never banned. Our Chinese counterparts are merely conducting a more thorough and extended inspection of our fruit exports,” the DA chief said.
Early this month, bananas from the Philippines were held up longer than usual at Chinese ports as quarantine personnel implemented a 100 percent inspection. The stringent measures were enforced following the discovery of scale insects, scientifically known as Aonidiella comperei, in March.
This prompted Secretary Alcala to send a team to China and present the Philippine plant quarantine protocol.
“We wanted to assure them that our bananas are of highest standards and quality,” Secretary Alcala said.
“This episode should serve as a wake-up call for all us as we may have been lenient in complying with international quarantine protocols,” he said
“From here on, we will impose a zero-tolerance policy with respect to insect and other contaminants. We have to keep a closer watch at our procedures and assure that they are strictly followed,” he added.
He said Director Barron and his team will meet tomorrow with Chinese quarantine officials to consolidate mutual agreements and measures to prevent similar cases from happening in future fruit shipments. The team will fly back to Manila over the weekend.
“Our offer still stands,” Secretary Alcala reiterated, referring to an invitation to Chinese quarantine experts to visit the Philippines, particularly Davao, “to see firsthand how rigid our protocols and procedures are.”