Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. called for the amendment of the charter of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) to expand its function to include developing and managing marine and agro-industrial estates across the country to ensure ample food supply.
Laurel said he envisions marine and agro-industrial estates to be one-stop shops that will house 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 said during the unveiling of World’ Bank’s latest report on the Philippine
Rural Development Program (PRDP).
Laurel underscored the World Bank’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.
He said he will soon appoint an assistant secretary whose sole focus would be logistics to ensure public funds are well spent.
Laurel, who built one of Southeast Asia’s largest fishing companies before joining the Department of Agriculture, said that tweaking the PFDA’s functions will align with the PRDP and President Marcos’ goal of modernizing the agriculture sector.
He said he has been meeting with lawmakers to seek possible adjustments in the 2024 budget to give the DA a better head start to carry on the government’s farm production goal and to raise incomes of farmers and fishermen.
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 showed agriculture’s contribution to the domestic economy shrinking below to single digit amid increasing dependence on imports, particularly rice and meat products.
The Philippines’ agricultural trade deficit in 2022 due higher imports stood at P660 billion, around four times the DA’s budget for next year.
“We need to scale up and get our priorities straight. have technically three-and-a-half years to accomplish these things. The DA, under my watch, will do its best to speed things up,” Laurel said.