It might have started as a misplaced shaddy-dog story, when President Rodrigo Duterte quipped months back that he had suggested to his Chinese counterpart to make the Philippines part of Chinese territory as the giant red dragon’s province.
During the anniversary of the Chinese Business Club in February 2018, Duterte, known for his often-irreverent comments, pulled the legs of his audience when he said, that in a meeting with Xi Jinping, he mockingly suggested that Beijing make Manila part of its territory, its province like Fujian.
The “Philippines province of China” geo positioning has appeared on social media and earned a bad press and informal brickbats, with tarpaulins in 2018 squawking in overpasses in Metro Manila, where nearly 13 million of the country’s 110 million people live, “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China.”
That, after the Philippines won in 2016 its territorial dispute case raised against the People’s Republic of China in the Permanent International Arbitration Court in The Hague.
But this month, we were thrown in a dudgeon once more, when cosmetics products sold in Binondo, Manila identified some hair product as manufactured in Binondo, Manila, province of China.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque commodiously pushed aside the mislabeling of Manila and stressed no one would believe it is a province of China, adding this is not the first time the country, which this year celebrated its 122nd independence anniversary, was associated with the tag “province of China.”
A few days ago, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso ordered the closure of four stores in Divisoria that were selling Chinese beauty products with labels that tagged Manila as a “province of China.” An annoyed Domagoso confirmed that photos of the label of the product Ashley Shine Keratin Treatment Deep Repair, an imported hair revitalizing product from China, presented Manila as a Chinese province.
The photos went viral this month on social media, showing the label that listed the firm’s manufacturing address as “707 Sto. Cristo St. San Nicolas, Manila Province, P.R. China. MADE IN P.R.C.”
Domagoso said Binondo is “not and will never be a province of China.” He posthaste ordered his seconds to implement the closure order.
Levi Facundo, director of the Manila Bureau of Permits and Licensing Office, Cesar Chavez, Domagoso’s chief of staff, and the Manila Police District-Special Mayor’s Reaction Team, pounced on the four stores — two inside Divisoria Mall and two others along Sto. Cristo Street in San Nicolas — and shut them down for selling Ashley Shine products.
Facundo said among the establishments’ violations were misrepresentation, no business permit to sell online, and violation of certain provisions by the Food and Drug Administration like non-inclusion of expiration dates and batch numbers on their labels. The product is distributed locally by Elegant Fumes Beauty Products, a Binondo-based company.
Domagoso’s closure order followed Rep. Jericho Nograles of the Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list recommendation Ashley Shine Keratin Treatment Deep Repair be blacklisted. The label clearly shows Manila, as a province of China. This incident must be investigated at the very least, and the manufacturer and importer should be blacklisted, as soon as legally permitted,” he said.
“It’s hard to dismiss this insult as a simple error. The mislabeling of the Chinese manufacturer could have been deliberate,” Nograles said, adding the incident should also prompt Congress to craft legislation that would penalize mislabeling of consumer products.
At the same time, he asked the Department of Trade and Industry and FDA to verify the authenticity of the product.
We doff our hat to Domagoso for clumping the establishments of the thick-skinned sellers and their principals. We share the deeply irritated thoughts and sentiments of fellow Filipinos who cannot bargain their heritage and culture, any presidential joke — or blunder because it was done in public — notwithstanding. ◆
Featured photo: Manila Police District-Special Mayor’s Reaction Team shut down four stores for selling Ashley Shine products.