Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) was quick to be on guard following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s appointment of fishing tycoon Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. as secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Laurel, who donated P30 million in Marcos’s 2022 campaign, oversees multiple corporations, most notably the Frabelle Fishing Corporation.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA urged Laurel to renounce trade policies which reduce tariffs and regulations in imports, provide economic assistance for families in times of calamities, and dole out sufficient production subsidies.
“The DA Secretary should know that opening floodgates for imported fishery products poses drastic impacts to the livelihood of local fisherfolk,” the group said.
This marks the first time that the DA will have a full-time chief under the Marcos administration. Marcos remained in helm of the agency since June 2022, refusing numerous calls to step down as he insisted to lead until “systems are in place.”
For PAMALAKAYA, importation has been a long standing battle. Since 2021, the group has been continuously lobbying against numerous importations done as band-aid solutions to lower food prices due to inflation.
“From 2018 to 2022, we have monitored more than 200,000 metric tons of various pelagic fishes imported from other countries like China and Taiwan. This is an insult not only to us being an archipelagic country, but also to millions of Filipinos involved in the fishing sector,” the group said.
Cheap imported fish only causes further drops in the price of local fishery products which is lethal to local fisherfolk. PAMALAKAYA reports galunggong dropping to an all-time low P50 to 60 per kilo from the usual P70 to 80, due to the tens of thousands of metric tons being imported. Currently, galunggong costs P244 per kilo due to a lack of resources caused by the gaps of protective agricultural policies.
The group also stressed its call for the prohibition of conversion and reclamation of coastal communities and fishing grounds that cause displacement and irreversible marine and aquatic destruction.
But this demand may be a long shot considering that Laurel currently benefits from the government’s reclamation projects. As an executive of a fishing, and an exportation firm, Laurel is responsible for three reclamation projects in Bacoor, Cavite, totaling to 420 hectares worth of land.
In a previous report, PAMALAKAYA told the Collegian that the Marcos administration continues to neglect their call to stop reclamation projects across the archipelago. There are currently 50 planned and on-going reclamation projects listed in the Philippine Reclamation Authority’s master list.
Laurel will be inheriting a handful of current agricultural woes accumulated through over a year of agricultural leadership by Marcos. As the president’s alter ego for the agriculture sector, he will play a critical role in achieving the ambitious goals laid out by Marcos during his campaign. Most challenging is the lowering of rice prices to P20 per kilo, that Marcos still claims to be attainable in the future.
The new agriculture head is a computer science graduate who is currently in charge of 10 corporations including, Frabelle, a conglomerate focused in fishing, processing, and import-export trading that operates both internationally and locally.
Marcos, in an attempt to add to Laurel’s credibility, said he has known Laurel “since we were boys.” And Laurel, being a top campaign donor of Marcos, is now the recent addition to the five Marcos campaign donors that were given government posts.
"These [calls] are all doable measures to ensure that the country will not fall short on fisheries production and that the country can be food self-sufficient. All it takes is political will from the new agriculture chief to stand alongside farmers for significant and genuine reforms in the agriculture and fisheries,” PAMALAKAYA said. ●
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