Guv calls for unity in the sugar industry

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson yesterday called for unity among sugar industry players amid a rift between a newly appointed SRA board member and the deputy governor.

Negrense sugar planter Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama, who campaigned for former vice president Leni Robredo’s presidential candidacy in Negros Occidental in the May 9 elections, was nominated by council member Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration of sugar regulations, representing planters .

“Mr. Valderrama has already made an open letter, and he recognizes the authority of the President. He is at the disposal of the President,” Lacson said.

Valderrama maintained that he had neither applied for the post of member of the SRA board nor considered obtaining it, explaining that he was even surprised that it had not been awarded to someone close to the President.

“But how can you say no, if this gesture was in fact a true manifestation of the president’s call for unity,” he said.

Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer pledged to find a way to revoke Valderrama’s appointment, after claiming he was provoked by him.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, Inc. (CONFED), the Panay Federation of Sugar Cane Farmers, Inc. (PANAYFED) and the National Federation of Sugar Cane Growers Inc. (NFSP), who collectively account for 57.48 percent of total sugar production, expressed their support for Valderrama’s appointment as a member of the SRA’s board of directors, representing growers.

In a joint statement, the three groups of sugar planters said Valderrama was an excellent choice to represent the planters as a member of the SRA Sugar Board, as it adheres to the spirit of teamwork and consultation on issues that affect the industry as a whole.

Lacson said: “it is not good to say that there is now a simmering disagreement between the groups here at Negros Occidental. After all, we have to be united and we have to be strong for the sugar industry.

He added that he was grateful to Vice Governor Ferrer for his role in the President’s decision to reject the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s proposed import of 300,000 metric tons of sugar at the start of the milling season.

We must also give that credit to Vice Governor Ferrer, in his new assignment as the President’s Personal Advisor for Western Visayas, Lacson said.

As for Valderrama’s nomination, Lacson said, “I think the president’s decision also underscored that he calls for unity during the campaign period, and he wants unity to actually thrive.”

Valderrama said he accepted the call “with motivation and his most fervent wish, to help unite the industry, to put their acts together, to speak with one voice and to work with one voice, to address the many challenges facing the sugar industry, in these trying times.

While he sees no problem in questioning and asking for his appointment to be revoked, Valderrama said: “I am not indispensable and I do not covet the position. I won’t turn my back on the opportunity to serve the industry, but I don’t wish to burden the President if it becomes a problem for him. There is no need for debate or recrimination. I am at the president’s disposal.

“If the president deems it appropriate to enlist someone else, let’s respect his prerogative and wish him well,” he added.*

Rachel J. Bradford