NEW CHINESE MOVE IN SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE: TRAVEL AGENCIES SUSPEND TRIPS TO PHILIPPINES

Wall Street Journal on May 10,2012, reported that Several leading Chinese travel agents said they have suspended tourism to the Philippines as relations between the countries worsen over a standoff between government vessels around disputed islands in the South China Sea. Excerpts below:

Representatives from CYTS Tours Holding Co. and Ctrip.com International, Ltd., two of China’s largest tour providers, said the companies had decided to cancel individual and group trips to the Philippines, citing political uncertainty.

Ctrip said it was helping Chinese visitors to return home because of what it describes as growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the Philippines.

The standoff in the Scarborough Shoal, a group of islands that both countries claim, began last month after Chinese government vessels blocked Filipino authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen accused of illegally fishing there. China refers to the specks of territory as Huangyan Island.

The situation deteriorated this week after a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official said she was not optimistic about resolving the current dispute and said China was prepared for deepening tensions.

The standoff is related to wider territorial disputes in the contested South China Sea, which contains important fishing grounds and is thought to hold vast reserves of oil and natural gas.

Also on the 9th, China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine ordered stepped-up quarantine of fruit imports from the Philippines, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. The report said regulators found harmful organisms in several shipments of fruit imports, but it did not provide specifics.

The Philippines Department of Tourism says China is the fourth largest source of tourists to the country.

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