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Confronting challenges

Manila Standard

Soon as he uttered the last word of his oath of office and felt the congratulatory hand of the appointing authority, the newly appointed agriculture chief saw before him a bulletin board of problems he must address.

This, after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gave up the Cabinet portfolio he held concurrently since last year and appointed fishing tycoon Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. the Department of Agriculture secretary.

Laurel’s ad interim appointment will be presented to the Commission on Appointments when Congress resumes session on Monday.

Before then, we join others who welcome his appointment, at a time of rising commodity prices, including agricultural products, with the inflation rate quickening to 6.1 percent in September.

His marching orders include curbing the rising prices of some agricultural commodities, pursuing modernization, and checking how neighboring countries are managing their agriculture sectors.

He also faces issues of rampant agricultural smuggling, which President Marcos has blamed for the increase in prices.

We are aware the Department of Justice said criminal and administrative cases would be filed against several DA officials it linked to smuggling, hoarding, and profiteering.

The President repeated his marching orders to Laurel, which include the control of agricultural commodities’ prices, recovery from avian flu and African swine fever.

Aside from these, Laurel, who must contend with alleged cartels that hurt Filipino consumers, would have to steer an agency struggling with a problem he would most likely be familiar with: commercial fishing vessels’ resistance against DA’s monitoring measures.

Some, however, have expressed concern that Laurel, who owns Frabelle Fishing Corporation, a deep sea fishing company supplying fresh, frozen, and processed seafood products to domestic and international markets, would only advance his business agenda.

But in the main, agriculture groups are willing to work with Laurel, saying they expect him to “commit” to resolving urgent concerns in the sector.

Others expressed hope he could “live up to the expectations” that came with the role.

“We wish Sec. Francis Tiu Laurel Jr. success and are prepared to work with him. At the same time, we hope that he will listen closely to and act promptly on the urgent concerns especially of small farmers, municipal fishers and other disadvantaged members of the agricultural sector,” the Federation of Free Farmers said in a statement.

We agree that Laurel’s appointment can be intimidating.

But we join others who raise their hope that Laurel would make a firm commitment, once he gets the nod of the Commission on Appointments, to strengthen the agriculture front, reduce tariffs on all agricultural commodities, resolve price issue and dismantle price cartels.

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