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MANILA, Philippines – “The design is very…[crony].”
This is how some Filipinos online reacted to the appointment of Frabelle Fishing Corporation president and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s campaign donor Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. as agriculture secretary on Friday, November 3.
Marcos attested to Laurel’s character and familiarity with the sector, having “known him since we were boys.” However, some social media users pointed out the “conflict of interest” in Laurel’s appointment as the new Department of Agriculture (DA) chief, saying the move was Marcos’ “payback” for the former’s contributions to his 2022 election campaign.
Laurel was one of Marcos’ top campaign contributors through the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, donating P30 million to the party that supported Marcos’ historic comeback to Malacañang.
X (formerly Twitter) user Marco Terrado also pointed out that Frabelle is part of the Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project. Reclamation projects like this have been criticized for decimating the livelihoods of Manila Bay fisherfolk.
Other users said Marcos’ latest appointment posed the question of why businessmen or private sector leaders are getting the job when it should belong to a person “without any ties” and who “directly engages with farmers.”
Following Friday’s announcement, Instagram user Jm Basanez challenged Laurel to resign from his position as Frabelle president.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil later told Inquirer.net that Laurel had already divested himself from his businesses.
Solving long-standing issues
Rappler also asked Filipinos online what they hoped Laurel could achieve as the Marcos administration’s first full-time agriculture secretary.
Some social media users hoped Laurel would support programs to help farmers and fisherfolk with their livelihood, such as financial aid and social entrepreneurship.
Facebook user Vic Martin Gimeneztan also urged Laurel to stop the conversion of agricultural land for commercial use, among others.
Others hoped that Laurel would address the issues surrounding agricultural products such as corruption and smuggling.
Filipinos online also did not forget to remind Laurel of Marcos’ election promise to lower the price of rice to P20 per kilo.
Rice inflation hit a 14-year high of 17.9% in September, even after Marcos tried to implement a price cap on regular milled and well-milled rice. Critics said that the move would have resulted in a rice shortage.
What other issues do you think Laurel should address as DA secretary? – Rappler.com