Tycoon-turned-DA-chief denies appointment is payback for Marcos campaign donation

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Tycoon-turned-DA-chief denies appointment is payback for Marcos campaign donation
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. appoints fishing tycoon Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. as the new Agriculture Secretary in a press briefing at the Malacañang Palace in Manila on Nov. 3, 2023.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Newly selected agriculture secretary and Marcos campaign donor Franciso Tiu Laurel Jr. has insisted that he is not being rewarded with the position for supporting the president’s electoral bid in 2022.

In a press conference on Monday, Laurel said that accepting Marcos’ offer to lead the DA was instead a form of “sacrifice.”

“Definitely, there is no payback. As I said, this is also my sacrifice. It’s just for the country. That’s all I can say,” Laurel said in a mix of English and Filipino.

During the 2022 national elections, Laurel donated at least P30 million in cash to Marcos' political party Partido Federal ng Pilipinas — the source of 40% of all of Marcos’ declared campaign funds, according to a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report.

Laurel is also the sixth Marcos campaign donor to be given a Cabinet position, according to the PCIJ article.

“When I was asked by the President to join the DA, I hesitated a couple of times. But then at the end of the day, I was challenged to do something for the country,” Laurel said.

The fishing tycoon added: “Bottomline, I love our country. And I want to help.” 

Conflict of interest 

During the press conference, Laurel said that he divested from all the companies he owned upon being selected for the position. “(Being) DA (secretary) is a full-time job,” Laurel said.

News of Laurel’s appointment prompted farmer and fisher groups last week to express concern about how Laurel’s business interests could color his decisions as DA chief, especially in food production and the “liberalization” of agricultural goods.  

In a message to Philstar.com, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) pointed out that Laurel was “invested in the corporate capture of land, being invested in energy and mining.”

“Moreover, agri-workers (are) worried that, as head honcho of an agri-business, he would allow the corporate plantation system to flourish rather than curb its expansion,” UMA said.

Laurel said that he no longer has any business interest in the companies he used to be involved with. “The DA is a big department (...) It’s a full-time job. I don’t have time to think about other things,” he added.

Before he was appointed DA chief, Laurel was the president of Frabelle Fishing Corporation, a company with business interests in, among others, deep-sea fishing, food manufacturing and processing, food importation and trading, according to the corporation’s website.

The new DA chief was also the president of Agusan Power Corporation, which inaugurated its 24.9-megawatt Lake Mainit Hydropower Plant in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte in July 2023.

Laurel previously served as a member of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC), which Marcos created at the start of his term. The fishing tycoon was among the members of the PSAC’s agricultural sector.

RELATED: Who is Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr? Quick backgrounder about the new DA chief

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