CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that the Philippines and Papua New Guinea are set to strengthen ties that will greatly affect local agriculture.

Piñol said that President Rodrigo Duterte and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill agreed Thursday to strengthen cooperation in Fishing and Agriculture during Bilateral Talks between the two leaders in the sidelines of the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum here.

“President Duterte specifically asked PM O'Neill, whose country is considered as one of the richest fishing grounds for tuna, to help the Philippine tuna industry by allowing Filipino fishing companies to continue bringing part of their catch to the processing plants in General Santos City,” Pinol said on his Facebook post.

Piñol added that Papua New Guinea recently signed new regulations which would require all foreign fishing companies to process their tuna catch in the country where Filipinos have established four of the six existing processing plants.

“President Duterte asked PM O'Neill to consider the impact of the move on the tuna industry in the Southern Philippines which sources almost half of its supply from Papua New Guinea,” Piñol said.

"Many of our people in the South will lose jobs and this is where we are grappling with the problem of insurgency and terrorism," President Duterte told PM O'Neill.

President Duterte offered Prime Minister O'Neill of Philippine support to develop the country's agriculture, especially in rice production and the coconut industry.

Papua New Guinea, a country with 46-million hectares and only an eight million population, has seen an increase in rice consumption per capita but it imports 100 percent of its rice requirements. The coconut industry, along with other agricultural potentials, has largely been underdeveloped and the country has been relying mainly on its fishing industry for its economic survival,” Piñol added.

The DA Secretary said that the Philippines, while only 96 percent self-sufficient in rice, has developed modern technology in rice farming and is one of the most advanced countries in the coconut industry.

"I will send you the best experts in these fields to help you," President Duterte said and committed that the Philippine Secretary of Agriculture will make a visit to the island in February next year.

“Obviously elated by the development, PM O'Neill promised to review the new fishing regulations and promised consultations with the Filipino investors in his country. As early as December this year, I will send soil and irrigation experts to Papua New Guinea to conduct initial tests and surveys so that when the Philippine agricultural delegation arrives in February, there would already be concrete measures which could be started in the areas of rice farming and the coconut industry,” Piñol added.