Farmers and fisherfolk greeted new Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. with a rally on his first day in office today, saying they doubt if he intends to properly address problems in the sector.
Appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as his replacement in the agency last Friday, the protesters said nothing in Tiu-Laurel’s background shows genuine concern for issues and problems of agriculture.
“Appointing him as the agriculture secretary speaks volumes when it comes to conflict of interest. In fact, he represents big business and the elite. How can we expect him to know the situation of small farmers and fisherfolk who are among the poorest of the poor?” the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said.
The KMP said Marcos’ appointment of Tiu-Laurel is recompense for the latter’s PHP50 million contribution to the former’s campaign for the presidency in 2022.
The farmers’ group added that Tiu-Laurel will only worsen the liberalization of the country’s agriculture sector, particularly in the fishing industry.
A known multi-millionaire, the new DA chief owns and manages global fishing company Frabelle which is involved in deep-sea fishing, aquaculture, food manufacturing, importation, cold storage, and trading.
He is also president of Agusan Power Corporation and chairman of the World Tuna Purse Seine Organization.
Frabelle is involved in the controversial Manila Bay reclamation projects, particularly in Bacoor, Cavite, and Navotas City.
Tiu-Laurel said his main objective at the DA is abundant harvests and ensuring food reaches the tables of Filipino families.
“My goal is to ensure that there is enough and nutritious food that our countrymen could buy at the right price,” he said.
But the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women said that Tiu-Laurel has no intention in ensuring food security based on self-sufficiency and self-reliance because of his big business interests.
“We cannot rely on the new agriculture secretary because he will not listen to solve the problems of the peasantry and fisherfolk about the food and agriculture crises based on his interest,” Amihan president Zenaida Soriano said.
“He will only push through with policies such as the rice liberalization law and excessive importation into the country,” Soriano added.
Soriano pointed out that Tiu-Laurel himself said he would follow what Marcos has done in the President’s 15 months as agriculture chief.
“He (Marcos) had really done nothing! He even made our people even poorer! Prices of commodities soared. The promise of P20-peso (of rice) was not a promise at all but only a dream,” Soriano fumed.
The woman peasant leader said the country could produce its own food requirements if only the government exercises political will to productively utilize the Philippines’ vast fertile lands, its rich seas, forests, and other resources.
In this morning’s rally, the protesters said the Marcos Jr. government neglects the preservation of rice lands devoted to food production and stops their conversion to other uses.
The groups said the Marcos government granted sufficient aid and production subsidies to farmers and stopped import liberalization and other neoliberal policies.
They added the government must finally enact a genuine agrarian reform and the food security laws that are filed in Congress as House Bill (HB) 1161 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and HB 405 or the Rice Industry Development Act.
This story was first published by KODAO Productions