Philippine fruit exports to China increased by 50 percent ever since the ban was lifted in 2016, according to an official from China's Ministry of Commerce.
In a special report by Jessica Soho, "Pivot to China," on GMA News' "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho" on Tuesday, Wu Zhengping, director general at China's Ministry of Commerce, said that the state visit of President Rodrigo Duterte improved diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China.
"Last year, after the historical state visit of President Duterte to China, our two countries made a breakthrough in our political relations," Wu said. The visit helped lay a good foundation for trade and cooperation the two countries, the Chinese official noted.
Shipments of Philippine bananas and pineapples to China increased by more than 50 percent, Wu said.
During Duterte's four-day state visit to China on October 18 to 21, 2016, thirteen economic agreements were signed and $24 billion in public financing and private business deals were pledged.
China also lifted a travel advisory issued in 2014, as well as the ban on banana shipments from the Philippines.
In March 2016, customs authorities at the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen destroyed 34.78 tons of "substandard bananas" imported from the Philippines due to excessive pesticide use.
Meanwhile, Stephen Antig, executive director of Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), said that incident was inevitable in agriculture trade.
"This cannot be avoided if you're in agriculture. I believe the reason for the problem was more political than quality or economic," Antig noted.
China committed to buy $1.7 billion worth of fruits and other agricultural products from the Philippines.
This development would open doors to further trade between the two countries.
The geopolitics between China and Philippines went from bad to worse as Manila filed a case against Beijing regarding the South China Sea dispute with the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
The Philippines won the case against China last year.
On Monday, Duterte revealed that China and the Philippines may go for a joint exploration project in disputed waters.
Wu noted the investments made Philippine companies in China. "We welcome very much the investment from the Philippines. And Liwayway in China has been very successful. And Oishi has been a very popular brand among the kids of China," he said.
Liwayway Holdings Company Limited manufactures snack foods under the "Oishi" brand which sells in China.
According to the International Monetary Fund, China is the largest economy by purchasing power parity.
It has the world's largest population of about 1.37 billion.
Sy-led SM Prime Holdings Inc. has 60 shopping malls in the Philippines and seven in China.
"SM has immersing investment in more than 7 cities in China," Wu said.
Senior Vice President for SM mall operations Steven Tan said that China has a huge market with a growing consumer spending.
"We opened actually our first mall 2001 pa. We opened in Jinjiang, which is the hometown of Henry Sy Sr. After that we opened our Xiamen, which is right now one of our most productive and doing extremely well," Tan said.
"It's a huge market, we have billions of people in China that you could really make sure that you capitalize on the population and the spending power is quite good," he said.
The Department of Tourism expects 1 million Chinese tourists to visit the Philippines this year.
Last year, 675,663 Chinese tourists arrived in the country.
"The Chinese would stay between five to seven days, at ang dala niya is syempre money to spend. Meron na ngayong additional flights na nasara between the DOT and Chinese carriers na direct na from China, not only to Manila but to Cebu, Caticlan. And now, merong maguumpisa na naman from China to Clark," Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said.
Domingo Yap, president of the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., said that government officials should work "double time" on infrastructure projects.
"The pivot to China is a diversification of trade and its sources," Yap said.
China has committed to finance at least three infrastructure projects in the Philippines worth $3.4 billion. — Marlly Rome Bondoc/VDS, GMA News