It’s about the donut, not the hole

While the gale from the north is fraught with incendiary sound bites on what’s taking place in the West Philippine Sea, Davao is getting ready for its next shipment of tuna sashimi, durian, fresh buko (young coconut), and other agricultural products to Zhenshen, China.

Zhenshen is only three hours and 30 minutes via direct flight from Davao City, thus the cargo gets there fresh.

This is another exciting development that makes farmers and fishermen ebullient.  Earlier, a few tons of tuna were exported to China, followed later by a bigger volume of durian.

This time, PHILEXPORT Davao City chapter president Domingo Ang, who owns Marina Tuna Restaurants in the city, and his fellow businessmen will embark on a bigger shipment.

The Davao region is the country’s biggest exporter of agricultural products. Top on the list are Cavendish bananas. Japan absorbs an export volume valued at $700 million annually, but China started loving the taste of the fruit as it now consumes about $420 million worth of bananas.

Hong Kong separately imports about $25 million, South Korea devours $200 million, and Saudi Arabia eats $34.3 million worth of bananas. The United States is the smallest export market with a volume worth $356,000.

Ang is confident that value-wise, tuna sashimi, other marine fish varieties that are successfully “farmed” in the calm Davao Gulf,  durian and fresh coconuts, among others, will add upwards of about $1 billion to Davao’s economy.

He pointed out that if fresh buko makes it in the China market, you can expect an additional bonanza for coconut growers. Davao is also the biggest producer of coconuts in the Philippines.

Ang, whose father pioneered the tuna industry in Mindanao, is especially happy with the new export development for the fisherfolk and fruit growers in Davao. Fishermen can organize themselves into cooperatives and avail of loans since they are now bankable.

They can then jointly own fleets of fishing boats. Individually, they can raise fish in cages and be assured of ready buyers in China.

The potential for fishermen is limitless and Doming Ang hopes the government will allow the fishermen to fish beyond municipal waters.

This brings us to our dispute with China over an atoll in the West Philippine Sea.  Yonder nearly every island is claimed by our neighbor countries.

Some of these islands have been quietly occupied by them while we are exchanging barbs with China.

Our ambivalence makes laggards out of us. We have missed opportunities.

There was this offer by China to jointly explore and mine the rich oil deposit in the WPS, with a 60/40 deal in favor of the Philippines. Had the deal been inked we would be in a different situation today.

The WPS is just a small part of the South China Sea. Underneath the water are $26 trillion worth of oil and gas deposits.

Today we are facing the biggest challenge as food and oil prices have escalated beyond our imagination. The peso is now breaching $57 to $1.

Despite this stark prospect of stagnation, this government is not keen on enhancing our agricultural productivity, and exploring the potentialities of our energy resource is zero on its agenda. The simpletons still rely on importation.

Against the apprehensions of some senators and the freaking spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard, China need not fire a single shot to cripple this government.  Look at how and where our economy is weighing in.

The Western drum beaters are saying that the United States is our biggest trading partner, accounting for $12.5 billion of our exports. Japan comes next with $11.1 billion, mainland China is third with $11 billion, and Hong Kong is fourth at $10.5 billion.

But lump together China and HK, its administrative region, and you have $21 billion total. Go figure out what fate awaits us.

Marcos should be circumspect about his options. He ought to see the donut and not the hole.

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