POSTSCRIPT / June 30, 2002 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Mexico mangoes in US labelled as RP produce

‘KARBURO’ MENTALITY: Many Pinoys have been wondering how come their vaunted mangoes have not gained a toehold on the American market. The reasons we’ve heard are anecdotal so we won’t foist them on you as the findings of a painstaking market research.

When we were residing in San Francisco in the 80s, we saw some mangoes here and there, but they were the Indian variety that smelled and tasted like (yuck!) medicine — a far cry from the luscious, sweet golden mangos that we knew back home.

Then, we met a businessman (name withheld so as not to embarrass him) who boasted of how he was able to pry open the US market and was, according to him, regularly bringing in boxes of luscious Philippine mangoes. Strange, but we did not get to see his mangoes on fruit stalls.

Later, a friend of his told us that that mango-import business withered after the businessmen tried rushing things by using karburo (calcium carbide) to force the fruits to ripen according to his business schedule and not according to nature’s immutable timetable.

Now we hear that there are better-looking mangoes in some California fruit stores being passed off as “Manila” mangoes but actually brought in from Mexico. Puede ba iyon? Can a Mexican hombre just appropriate for his use the brand name “Manila”? We’re not a lawyer, but this seems like misrepresentation to us.

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GUIMARAS VARIETY: Comes now our colleague Ben S. Simpao reporting on what looks like a resurgence of the mango export business, this time of the genuine Philippine variety. He tells us:

“I was surprised to see about four boxes of Guimaras ‘super mangoes’ being sold in an Oriental mart here in Union City a week ago. The other day, there were more boxes displayed in the produce section of the mart, one of the biggest in the area.

“From what I read in the local dailies, there were about 400 boxes of these mangoes flown to Los Angeles by Philippine Airlines. Apparently some of the mango boxes filtered up north, here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Since this is the first time that I saw our mangoes, I have no idea how large or how spread out is the distribution in northern California where there’s the strong presence of FilAms, like in Daly City, South San Francisco, Vallejo, Union City, Hercules, San Jose and Stockton.”

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FOOTNOTES: Union City (pop. 62,240) is some 38 percent with Pinoy roots. UC has a sister city, I believe, near Cebu City. A Pinoy councilman twice topped the elections, was chosen as head council and at the same time as vice mayor. This Pinoy was acting mayor when the incumbent mayor was out of town.

Union City is the city in northern California where the first “Jeep ni Erap” organization was launched. On the economic scale, majority of the Pinoy families here are well-off, owning houses in the range of $400,000 above, two cars and a van to boot.

America-wide, a positive footnote in recent US censuses is that the average FilAm family has a household income higher than the average American household, that the average Pinoy in the US is better educated than the average American.

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FLOWN BY P.A.L.: Ben goes on: “The first boxes I saw were of white, with blue markings, 20 mangoes to a box. Each mango has its own slot for better protection and handling. Now the latest shipments have 24 mangoes to a box.

“The main logo says Super Guimaras Mangoes for the US. On the side of the box are inscriptions indicating the produce had been vapor heat treated under existing regulations.

“There is also the blue sticker that says Philippine Airlines, security checked. Then there’s this Marsman/Drysdale round logo, perhaps indicating the exporters. The producer is the Oro Verde Holdings and Development of Guimaras, Philippines.

“The Philippine mangoes are mostly sold in boxes. I saw several of them wrapped in clear plastic in pairs for $3.”

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P61 A PIECE, ANYONE?: “At the height of the mango-selling season in California, which starts late February, runs to March and tapers off in July, certain varieties of Mexican mangoes sell for as much as 99 cents a piece. Some inferior type or unripe and still green ones sell for as low as a dollar for two.

“At the Oakland Chinatown, peak-season Mexican mangoes sell for as high as $11.99 (mid March, early April) a box, depending on the size and quality and from what state (not province) in Mexico the mangoes come. There are nine to 16 mangoes to a box, depending on their size.

“In early June, a box of Mexican mangoes could slip to $5.99 to $7.99 a box. These could be the leftovers the mart owners would like to quickly dispose off as the season is already on the wane. Last June 25, I bought nine ‘somewhat ripe’ mangoes in a box at $3.49, for blender-bound mango juice.

“The first Guimaras mango box I saw a week earlier, 20 pieces to a box, had a price tag of $25. Now there’s this new shipment, 24 mangoes to a box, at $27. Tacking on the 8.5-percent sales tax, that would be $29.29 a box. That makes it $1.22 per mango, or P61 each at P50 to the dollar.”

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PETRON REACTS: From Ms. Virginia A. Ruivivar, corporate communications manager of Petron, came a reaction to the “Sumbong from Romblon” item in our last Postscript reporting the objections of Romblon residents to the Petron bulk plant in their midst.

Objectors say: DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez favors Petron by allowing the commercial operations of the Ipil bulk plant.

Petron replies: “The planning and construction of the Ipil bulk plant began in 1999. Before the structures were erected, the necessary building permits, including the Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) were already obtained. The facility then began commercial operations in 2001.

“Given the timeline, DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez could not have been involved at any point with regard to the approval of our ECC for the said facility. Furthermore, ECCs are usually approved by the regional director.

“In fairness to the Honorable Secretary, we have never approached his office to ask for ‘his blessings,’ as it has never been our practice to solicit favors from any government department in the conduct of our business.

“We are gravely concerned about the implications of your column since it casts aspersion not only on the Company’s reputation but also on the Secretary’s good name.”

Objectors: The bulk plant is situated in the wrong place and would cause damage to the area in the event of an accident.

Petron: “Contrary to the point that the bulk plant is situated in the wrong place, it was built in its present location precisely to avoid the densely populated area of the original site in Agbuyao, Capaclan.

“Petron places a premium on the health, safety and environmental aspects of its operations. Like all of our facilities, the Ipil bulk plant passes international engineering standards and is adequately equipped to deal with emergencies.

“Additionally, the facility only stores diesel and gasoline, which does not explode even when subjected to open flame and evaporates once it is exposed to the elements.

Objectors: The plant runs counter to the provincial vision of an “ecologically balanced province.”

Petron: “(We share) the aspirations of the Province of Romblon, as it is also committed to ‘caring for our community and environment.’ We believe that safe and environment friendly operations are key to the long-term sustainability of our business.

“The presence of the Ipil bulk plant ensures that petroleum products distributed in the province are handled in an efficient and safe manner. This also guarantees the people of Romblon a reliable and affordable petroleum supply vital to the development and consequent progress of the region.

“We would like to reassure the residents of Ipil that our doors are always open and we welcome an exchange of ideas through open forums and dialogues.”

(We have a rejoinder from the concerned citizens of Romblon, but for lack of space here, we will run it in our next Postscript. — fdp)

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WHAT DO YOU THINK?: Is Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabbaya dead or alive? A great number of readers joined the Postscript survey on that question. You can still catch up and register your opinion. Explain your vote in less than 50 words. Indicate your Age, Sex and Location which will be kept confidential and deleted from the files after 10 days.

We won’t give a preliminary tally at this point so we do not influence the vote. For your response not to get lost with the rest of our mail, please type SABAYA on the subject line if emailing your vote. Write SABYA on the envelope if you’re sending it by regular mail or by messenger to c/o PhilStar, Port Area, Manila.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 30, 2002)

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