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Marcos appoints fishing tycoon Francisco Laurel Jr. as new agriculture chief

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Nov 03, 2023 11:47 am

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has turned over his post as Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary to fishing tycoon Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.

Marcos announced the transition during a press conference in Malacañang today. Nov. 3. The president said that Laurel took his oath earlier today.

The businessman's appointment comes almost a year and a half after Marcos took the DA secretary post when he became president on June 30, 2022.

"We have found somebody who understands very well the problems that agriculture is facing," Marcos said. "The reason for the timing [of his appointment]... is that now we are confident that we have a fair understanding, a good understanding of what needs to be done." 

In a media interview in June, Marcos said that he will not leave his agriculture post until the agency's issues have been solved. In addition to the rising prices and decreasing supply of commodities, the next agriculture chief would have to address the high poverty incidence among Filipino farmers and fisherfolk.

“Ang aking hangarin para sa DA ay ‘pag iniwanan ko ang DA, by that time, we will have systems in place so that we can guarantee the food supply of the Philippines, number one, we can guarantee that the prices are affordable, and number three that our farmers make a good living,” he said during the turnover of RMB 100 million (P782.68 million) worth of urea fertilizers donated by China in Valenzuela City

“So, hangga't matapos natin 'yun, I suppose you will just have to put up with me as DA Secretary,” Marcos added.

Laurel is the owner and director of Frabell Fishing Corporation which was founded by his parents, Francis and Bella Tiu-Laurel, in 1966. It specializes in supplying frozen and processed seafood products to both domestic and international markets since it was established in 1966.

Apart from working in the agriculture business for over three decades now, the tycoon is also the president of Agusan Power Corporation. He finished his computer science degree at the University of Santo Tomas.

Prior to his appointment, Laurel was a member of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC), a group mostly composed of businessmen providing Marocs with advice on economic matters. Laurel has been with PSAC's agriculture sector with five other business leaders since his enlistment in August 2022.

The businessman was also among Marcos' top campaign contributors, having donated P30 million to the latter's campaign in 2022. The numbers came from a report by Partido Federal ng Pilipinas obtained by a local publication in September.

In his speech during his appointment, Laurel thanked the President for giving him the opportunity to lead the agriculture sector and vowed to make food more accessible to the Filipinos, especially to the country's farmers and fishermen.

"Bilang kinatawan ng Pangulo, layunin ko na ipagpatuloy ang kanyang mga adhikain at program sa sektor na agrikultura. Sa mga daratig na araw, ilalatag ko sa inyo ang mga plano ng kagawaran ng agrikultura, in coordination with our President," Laurel said.

"Pangunahing layunin ko ay siguraduhing sagana ang ating ani at siguraduhin makakarating sa hapag ng bawat Pilipino," he continued. "Layunin ko na tiyakin na may sapat at masustansyang pagkain na mabibili ang ating mamayanan sa tamang halaga. Susi dito ang modernisasyon ng sektor ng agrikultura sa kapakanan ng mga kapatid nating magsasaka at mangigingisda. Ating sisiguraduhin na sila ay makikinabang sa kanilang pagod at pagsisikap."

"Asahan po ninyong bukas ang aking tanggapan sa inyong lahat. Handa along making at makatrabaho kayo. Higit sa lahat, ako ay handa na magtrabaho para sa inyo." the newly appointed secretary noted.