Manila – Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. is advocating for the expansion of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority's (PFDA) charter to include the development and management of marine and agro-industrial estates across the country, with the aim of modernizing the fisheries sector and ensuring stable food supply.
According to Philippines News Agency, Laurel explained that this initiative aligns with the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s objective to modernize the agriculture sector. He envisions these estates as comprehensive hubs equipped with ports, cold-storage facilities, silos, and warehouses for storing various farm and marine products such as rice, sugar, vegetables, and palm oil, thereby ensuring a stable supply of these essential commodities.
Laurel drew inspiration for this model from successful implementations in South Korea and Japan, expressing hope that the World Bank could assist in realizing this vision. This proposal was mentioned during the World Bank's presentation of its latest report on the PRDP on November 22. In the report, the World Bank identified potential funding sources for Philippine agriculture, including grants from the European Union and the Global Environment Facility, to support marine protected areas.
Additionally, Laurel emphasized the need for digital transformation in agriculture and improvements in the sector's logistics, based on the World Bank's recommendations. Recognizing a gap in logistics planning within the Department of Agriculture (DA), he plans to appoint an assistant secretary dedicated to logistics to ensure efficient use of public funds.
To enhance farm production and increase the incomes of farmers and fisherfolk, Laurel has been engaging with lawmakers to discuss possible adjustments to the 2024 budget. Despite agriculture providing employment for one in four Filipino workers, around 10 million farmers and fishermen live below the poverty line. Economic data reveal a decline in agriculture's contribution to the national economy and a growing reliance on imports, especially for rice and meat products.
The agricultural trade deficit in 2022, primarily driven by high imports, reached PHP660 billion, approximately four times the DA's budget for the following year. Laurel acknowledged the need for the DA to scale up and realign its priorities in the next three and a half years.
Laurel committed to accelerating efforts to achieve national food security and uplift agricultural workers from poverty, ensuring the proper implementation of these initiatives to benefit all Filipinos.