China seeks to ease tensions with Philippines with seafood gifts

Published on
February 23, 2018

China has made a series of seafood-related offerings to the Philippines in a charm offensive with the aim of reducing tension in the South China Sea.

China is honoring a request from Filipino Rodrigo Duterte for 100,000 coral grouper (plecropomus leopardus) fry, according to Han Xu, China’s vice minister for agriculture. The fry will be delivered this year and in 2018 to for use in aquaculture operations on Davao and Palawan islands.

The relationship between China and the Philippines had deteriorated over a number of territorial and trade disputes until Duterte’s election in 2016. Since his ascension, Duterte has taken a more conciliatory approach to relations with Beijing, despite lingering frustration amongst some Filipino fishermen angry about a Chinese proposal that they leave disputed fishing areas in return for training in aquaculture.  

The coral fish trade is worth USD 810 million (EUR 657 million) per year, according to the Asia Development Bank. Han said the donation of the thousands of fry would likely benefit China, suggesting the finished fish could be bought back by Chinese restaurateurs. 

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