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DA chief Laurel calls for PFDA charter amendment

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. is calling for the amendment of the charter of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) in a bid to expand its function.

In a statement on Tuesday, Laurel said that amending the PFDA’s functions would include developing and managing marine and agro-industrial estates across the country to ensure ample food supply.

The DA chief added that tweaking the PFDA charter corresponds with the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s goal of modernizing the agriculture sector.

The Agriculture chief said that marine and agro-industrial estates should 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,” Laurel said.

The Agriculture chief also 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 master plan. That is one thing I think is lacking in the DA,” said Laurel.

The DA chief said an assistant secretary, whose sole focus would be logistics to ensure public funds are well spent, will be appointed soon.

Laurel added that he has been meeting with lawmakers to seek possible adjustments in the 2024 budget to better align with the Marcos administration’s goal of increasing farm production to make the country food secure, as well as raising the incomes of farmers and fishermen to lift them out of poverty.

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

Moreover, the DA chief said that the latest economic data show agriculture’s contribution to the domestic economy shrinking below single digit amid increasing dependence on imports, particularly rice and meat products. 

The Philippines’ agricultural trade deficit in 2022 due to higher imports is equivalent to P660 billion, around four times the DA’s budget for next year.

“We need to scale up and get our priorities straight,” Laurel said. 

“I have technically three-and-a-half years to accomplish these things. The DA, under my watch, will do its best to speed things up,” he added. —VAL, GMA Integrated News