DA chief eyes marine-agro-industrial estates to modernize fisheries

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

November 28, 2023, 6:30 pm

<p>Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. (2nd from left) <em>(Photo courtesy of DA)</em></p>

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. (2nd from left) (Photo courtesy of DA)

MANILA – Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. has called for amendments to the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) charter to expand its function in the development and management of marine and agro-industrial estates nationwide ensuring ample food supply.

In a news release on Tuesday, Laurel said the measure is in accordance with the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) and the goal of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to modernize the agriculture sector.

He said the marine and agro-industrial estates would be one-stop shops housing ports, cold-storage facilities, silos and warehouses to store farm and marine products such as rice, sugar, vegetables, palm oil and other basic commodities, and ensure their stable supply.

“I’ve seen this model successfully implemented in South Korea and Japan. I hope the World Bank can help us realize this vision,” he added.

This was cited at the World Bank’s (WB) presentation of its latest report on the PRDP last Nov. 22.

In the report, the WB identified potential funding sources for Philippine agriculture like grant funds from the European Union and the Global Environment Facility to support marine protected areas.

Apart from this, Laurel underscored the WB’s suggestions on the need for digital transformation in agriculture as well as improving the sector’s logistics.

“Definitely, we need a logistics masterplan. That is one thing I think is lacking in the DA,” he said.

Laurel said he will soon appoint an assistant secretary whose sole focus would be logistics to ensure public funds are well spent.

To increase farm production and raise incomes of farmers and fisherfolk, Laurel disclosed that he has been meeting with lawmakers to seek possible adjustments in the 2024 budget.

The national government estimates around 10 million farmers and fishermen live below the poverty line despite agriculture providing jobs for one in every four Filipino workers.

Latest economic data show agriculture’s contribution to the domestic economy shrinking below to single digit amid increasing dependence on imports, particularly rice and meat products.

The country’s agricultural trade deficit in 2022, due to higher imports, is equivalent to PHP660 billion — around four times the DA’s budget for next year.

Laurel said the DA needs to scale up and straighten its priorities in the next three and a half years.

Laurel also assured the public he will do everything to “speed things up” to achieve food security for all Filipinos and to lift agricultural workers from poverty. (PNA)