MOVES to have President Rodrigo Duterte visit Japan ahead of China proved futile as the Filipino leader will fly to Beijing first contrary to his initial intention.
In his meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on August 11 in Davao, sources said Duterte conveyed to the Japanese side that he wanted Japan to be his first foreign visit outside Southeast Asia which Tokyo welcomed.
It was learned that the visit was initially planned in the third week of October, but a decision later was made for Duterte to travel to China around that time.
Reports claimed that Duterte is slated to be in Brunei from Oct. 16 to 18 before flying to Xiamen, China on the evening of Oct. 18.
The President’s meeting with his counterpart Xi Jinping is scheduled in Beijing on Oct. 20 and he is expected to fly back to Manila on Oct. 21, it was learned.
Sources disclosed that after China, Duterte will be visiting Japan from Oct. 25 to 27.
The matter of which country a head of state visits first has high symbolic meanings in the diplomatic realm, it was said.
Japan, along with the United States, had backed up the Philippines’ bid to seek international arbitration against China over its massive claim in the South China Sea that overlaps with Manila’s territories.
Aside from taking up the South China Sea issue, Duterte also hopes to bring up his anti-drug campaign before Beijing officials.
Bananas for China
Ahead of Duterte’s visit to China late this month, China has lifted restrictions on banana and pineapple exports from the Philippines
Aside from the two fruits, which are major products of Duterte's home region of Mindanao, China will also be "opening up its market" to Philippine mangoes, coconut and dragon fruit as well as lapu-lapu (grouper), crabs, shrimps, prawns, tuna and bangus (milk fish), according to agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol .
"Two weeks before President Rody Duterte's State Visit, the Chinese government has announced that it will lift the suspension imposed earlier on Filipino companies exporting bananas and pineapple to the country," Piñol said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
Pinol further disclosed that China's Ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, also told Filipino officials that Philippine produce would be sold in major Chinese cities.
China had imposed tighter quarantines on Philippine bananas since a tense naval standoff at the Scarborough Shoal in 2012. Thousands of tons of the fruit were impounded and eventually destroyed in Chinese ports.
China is one of the biggest markets for Philippine bananas. In 2011, before the Scarborough standoff, it imported 300,000 bananas worth $60 million, according to data from the Bureau of Plant Industry.
Piñol said the "suspension" was lifted for these firms: Sumifru, Banana Brothers, Inc., Evita Banana Trading Company, Inc., Nader and Ibrahim S/O Hassan Phils., Inc., Tagum Agricultural Development Trade Co., Inc., TVEM Links International Co., Stanfilco Division of DOLE Philippines, Inc., Phil pack, Continental Farm Corp., and Lapanday Diversified Products Corp.
Duterte's visit to China is seen as an attempt to reboot ties that have been strained by territorial wrangling in the resource-rich South China Sea.
A United Nations-backed court in July ruled in favor of Manila and said that Beijing had no historic rights to the disputed waters.
The visit is also timed with Duterte seeking to reassess the Philippines long-standing alliance with the United States while building ties with Washington's rivals, Beijing and Moscow.