Propel Philippine Agriculture Forward
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and members of the Private Sector Advisory Council-Agriculture Sector convene at Malacañan Palace to discuss advancements and strategic initiatives for the Philippine agriculture sector, May 8, 2024. (Photo from PCO)

Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) lead convenor Sabin Aboitiz, the President and CEO of Aboitiz Group, together with the PSAC Agriculture Sector leaders met with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at the Heroes Hall, Malacañan Palace on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. The session covered significant areas including the coconut, sugar, and tobacco industries, as well as biotechnology regulations and agricultural export procedures.

The discussion highlighted a unified effort to optimize the coconut industry’s potential through two significant initiatives.

First, President Marcos proposed a comprehensive restructuring of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan Fund (CFIDP), ensuring a more efficient allocation of resources to support the PCA’s ambitious replanting strategy targeting 100 million coconut trees within the next five years.

Second, a substantial increase in funding for the salt fertilization program is being proposed, with a shift towards emphasizing local sourcing and catalyzing the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the salt industry through collaboration with cooperatives. These initiatives are expected to enhance coconut yields and further develop the local salt industry, which provides crucial inputs for coconut cultivation. Efforts are underway to realign the CFIDP to ensure that the growth of the coconut industry is both sustainable and inclusive.

In support of the coconut industry, Secretary Lotilla of the Department of Energy announced plans to elevate biodiesel blend from B2 to B5 over the course of three years, commencing in October 2024. This policy aims to improve fuel efficiency while ensuring that the coconut supply for the food sector remains unaffected.

The council also addressed the decision by the Court of Appeals regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). President Marcos reassured stakeholders of the government’s commitment to continue with the Golden Rice and BT Talong programs, despite legal ambiguities. The Solicitor General has been instructed to seek clarification and reconsideration of the decision, emphasizing its limited scope and potential widespread impact on agriculture and food security.

For the sugar industry, President Marcos endorsed the PSAC’s recommendations to bridge sugar imports during off-milling seasons and to refine imported raw sugar domestically for export. This strategy, along with a comprehensive review of the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA), aims to reallocate funds more effectively toward critical agricultural needs such as seeds and irrigation.

President Marcos and DA Secretary Laurel highlighted the administration’s initiative to streamline agricultural exports by significantly reducing procedural delays, thereby enhancing the global competitiveness of Philippine agricultural products.

Propel Philippine Agriculture Forward
President Marcos attentively listens to Sabin Aboitiz of the Private Sector Advisory Council during a discussion at a recent council meeting. (Photo from PCO)

The meeting outlined stricter regulatory and tax enforcement strategies in response to the challenges posed by tobacco and vape product smuggling. These include implementing new tax measures, enhancing monitoring, and enforcing stricter compliance protocols to curb illegal trade and ensure public safety.

Irwin Lee, President and CEO of Universal Robina Corporation and a member of PSAC-Agri, expressed optimism about the meeting’s outcomes, stating, “Our discussions with President Marcos Jr. today mark a significant step towards strengthening our agricultural sector. We are committed to the swift implementation of these strategies to ensure they bring substantial benefits to our agricultural community and bolster the nation’s economy.”

The PSAC-Agri remains dedicated to collaborating closely with the government to monitor the implementation of these recommendations and ensure that they effectively contribute to Philippine agriculture’s resilience and competitiveness.

About Private Sector Advisory Council

The Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) has been established strategically by President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr to create and strengthen innovative new synergies between the private and public sectors. PSAC comprises business leaders and experts across six main sectoral groups — Agriculture, Digital Infrastructure, Jobs, Healthcare, Build-Build-Build, and Tourism.

The Council helps the government deliver on its commitment to transform the Philippine economy by implementing robust infrastructure programs, creating more jobs and attracting more investors, digitizing processes, and improving agricultural productivity through the recalibration of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), jumpstart Philippine Tourism and ensuring an equitable, sustainable, and inclusive business landscape for Filipinos.

PSAC will continuously recommend modern policy development to the government and report regularly to the President to provide feedback and adjust recommendations based on what is happening on the ground.

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