INDUSTRY STAKEHOLDERS. Sugar Regulatory Administration board member Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. (2nd from right) with Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (center) and Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc. executives Jose Ma. Montinola, Bernard Trebol, and Francis de la Rama at the Bacolod Government Center on August 6, 2022. On that day, Benitez administered the oath of Valderrama, who was appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the planters’ representative to the SRA Board. (Photo courtesy of Archie Rey Alipalo)

BACOLOD CITY – Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board member Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. has thanked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for allowing him to serve the sugar industry.

In a statement on Wednesday, Valderrama, a Negrense who openly supported former vice president Leni Robredo’s candidacy in the presidential polls, said he accepted the call to become part of the SRA to help unite the industry amid the difficult times.

“In truth, I wondered why me and not someone else close to the current administration. But how do you say no if this gesture were in fact a genuine manifestation of the President’s call for unity?” he added.

After the President appointed him last week, and he took his oath over the weekend, some quarters have questioned his appointment and sought its revocation, particularly Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer, who expressed his sentiments against Valderrama's appointment, during a media interview on Tuesday.

Valderrama, the president of the Vicmico Planters Association Inc. and director of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc. (Confed), said he was motivated to accept the appointment to help the industry stakeholders put their acts together, speak with one voice, and work as one to address many challenges.

“(H)ow does one say no when the opportunity to serve the industry, especially to promote the welfare of the small and marginalized sugarcane producers who are struggling to survive, presents itself?," he asked.

Valderrama said he tried to beg off due to various reasons, “(b)ut when Malacañang called to inform me of my appointment, I was left with little choice but to consider this my ‘tour of duty,’ an opportunity to serve the industry that has been the source of livelihood for so many people, including my family.”

“I will not turn my back on the chance to serve the industry, but I do not wish to burden the President if this has become a problem for him. There is no need for debate or recrimination. I am at the President’s disposal,” he added.

As the planters’ representative to the SRA Board, Valderrama's wish is to serve as the industry’s voice and bridge to the SRA and the policymakers.

“I ask our industry stakeholders – regardless of affiliation – to work as one for our common good,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Confed, together with the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc. (Panayfed) and the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters Inc. (NFSP), which collectively produce 57.48 percent of the country’s total sugar production, jointly issued a manifesto of support for Valderrama.

“The Presidential appointment of (Valderrama) as acting member representing the sugar planters in the Sugar Board is a most timely development, with the nation facing the challenges of sugar shortage and high prices, on the one hand, and very high costs of sugar production and diminishing productivity, on the other,” they said. (PNA)