Farmers back, fishers oppose fishing tycoon as DA chief

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Farmers back, fishers oppose fishing tycoon as DA chief
Fishermen receive diesel and relief packs from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) at Scarborough Shoal during the continuation of the diesel supply mission on September 21, 2023.
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Farmers’ group Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) president Danilo Fausto yesterday backed the possible appointment of fishing tycoon Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. as next secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“He is a good guy and has good knowledge of our problems in agriculture. I extend our sincerest good luck to his (possible) leadership and PCAFI will continue to work hand in hand with the DA for the good of our people and our country,” Fausto told The STAR.

On the other hand, fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) has expressed alarm over reports that Marcos is considering appointing Laurel as the next agriculture chief.

In a statement yesterday, Pamalakaya contended that the Frabelle Fishing Corp. (FFC) “ranks among the Philippines’ prominent large-scale fishing companies,” engaging not only in industrial fishing operations in deep seas but also in extensive land reclamation activities along coastal areas and municipal waters.

Malacañang would not confirm reports that President Marcos is eyeing Laurel as secretary of the DA. For his part, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chairman Rosendo So said that he would rather wait for the official announcement on the appointment of Tiu.

“Let’s wait for PBBM,” So said in a separate text message to The STAR.

Citing sources, Bilyonaryo.com said Laurel, who owns the Frabelle Group of Companies, has the qualities Marcos has been looking for in a DA chief, a position the President concurrently holds since assuming office in June last year.

Laurel was one of Marcos’ top donors in the 2022 elections, the business news website said.

Earlier, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said he believes Marcos was “on the way” to making a decision with regard to choosing the new agriculture secretary.

Pamalakaya said the FFC is the driving force behind a 420-hectare reclamation project that has resulted in the displacement of over 700 fishing families residing in two coastal villages in Bacoor City, Cavite.

“No wonder the President earlier announced amending the Fisheries Code in favor of commercial fishing vessels,” Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap said.

“[A]side from being a member of Marcos Jr.’s Private Sector Advisory Council, it turns out Laurel Jr. has also been the prospect of taking the helm of the agriculture department, which includes the fishing sector,” Hicap said.

He added that they are concerned that if someone like Laurel assumes the role of agriculture secretary, he may prioritize his business interests over the collective welfare of farmers and fisherfolk, who are advocating for genuine reforms in agriculture and fisheries. — Mark Ernest Villeza

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