Department of Agriculture

Who is Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., the new DA chief?

Iya Gozum

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Who is Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., the new DA chief?

OATH-TAKING. Fishing tycoon Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. takes his oath before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as new agriculture secretary.

PCO photo

(1st UPDATE) After more than a year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. relinquishes his agriculture post to fishing tycoon Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. Get to know the new full-time agriculture chief.

MANILA, Philippines – Taking the reins of the troubled Department of Agriculture (DA) from none other than President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is fishing magnate Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.

Laurel is president of Frabelle Fishing Corporation.

The President said he is confident about his appointment of Laurel, who he said, he has known since they were boys and had been one of his campaign donors in the 2022 presidential elections.

In a short speech during the announcement in Malacañang grounds, Laurel called Filipino farmers and fisherfolk his brothers and sisters.

“Malapit sa puso ko ang mga kapatid nating magsasaka at mangingisda dahil personal kong natunghayan ang mga hirap at pangarap nila,” Laurel said. “Asahan po ninyong laging bukas ang aking tanggapan para sa inyong lahat.”

(Our farmers and fisherfolks are close to my heart because I’ve personally witnessed their hardships and dreams. Expect my office to be always open to all of you.)

How did Laurel get in familiar terms with the sector? Get to know more about the new agriculture chief here.

Who is Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., the new DA chief?
Hailing from a family-run company

Laurel was born in 1967, a year after his parents Francis and Bella Tiu-Laurel established Frabelle as a small trawl fishing company in the Philippines.

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said Laurel was born in 1966. This has been corrected.)

Now, Frabelle has expanded operations into the Western and Central Pacific regions, where a large share of the world’s tuna can be found.

Laurel had helped lead the company extend their market in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, and the United States.

Frabelle is composed of businesses involved in different stages of the supply chain, including deep-sea fishing, aquaculture, food manufacturing, importation, trading, and cold storage.

Besides heading the seafood company, Laurel also serves as president of Agusan Power Corporation and is chairman of World Tuna Purse Seine Organization.

This familiarity with the sector, especially in fisheries, was why Marcos said he is confident about having appointed Laurel.

Moreover, the President deemed Laurel’s background in the private sector and his connections as beneficial to the DA.

Before he was appointed DA chief, Laurel was already a member of the government’s Private Sector Advisory Council.

For Laurel, their family-run company is testament to the potential of the Philippines to be a leader in the fishing industry.

“Frabelle is a concrete example of how a fisheries-based company operated and managed by Pinoys, can succeed and can become [a leader] in the fishing industry, not only in the Philippines, but in the world,” said Laurel in his commencement address to UP Visayas graduates back in 2019.

At sea

Even though a seat in the company is already secured because of birth right, Laurel still had to experience work at sea.

In a 2016 interview, Laurel said that for five years, he spent an average of 45 days at sea onboard their fishing vessels.

He called it a learning experience, where he met the crew and captains, and became acquainted with operations at sea.

In the same interview, Laurel said his father made it a point to send him to Japan to learn from experts in the industry. Japan is the world’s largest tuna market.

A tall order awaits

Expectations of the fishing tycoon are high, as he is taking over the post previously occupied by none other than the Philippine president.

Heading a huge agency concerned with feeding its people is a tall order. Marcos himself admitted that there are many things left to do after his first year as DA chief.

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

He would also have to contend with the alleged cartels that hurt Filipino consumers.

Aside from these, Laurel would also 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. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.