SRA directed to plan sugar importation order: board member

Angelo Angolo

Posted at Aug 17 2022 09:46 AM

A board member of the Sugar Regulatory Administration on Tuesday said it was only directed to prepare the controversial order to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr., representative of the planters at the Sugar Board, said the SRA’s Sugar Order No. 4 was not illegal as it was only a proposal.

Valderrama, who only took his oath as a member of the Sugar Board on August 6, declined to specify where the directive came from. 

“That was the plan. The President (Marcos) could have rejected it if he feels it was too much. It was given to him. He could have rejected it. That is why (we were) surprised that it was 'illegal,'” he told ABS-CBN News.

"The Department of Agriculture undersecretary may act as an alter ego of the President. But the President has control and supervision over his secretaries so he can approve or disapprove. But it does not mean that it is illegal. It’s just that he does not agree. But to say that the acts were illegal is unfair,” said Atty. Rafael Ocampo, Valderrama’s legal counsel.

Valderrama justified the importation order, saying it was based on data, adding that the rising price of sugar was proof that there was a shortage of the commodity in the country.

"The proposed sugar importation was based on SRA's official data and supply/demand analysis, as well as prevailing high market prices, which established a clear basis on additional imports," he said.

Last week, Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian tendered his resignation over the importation issue. SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica and Sugar Board millers representative Roland Beltran also quit.

Valderrama, meanwhile, still remains part of the Sugar Board.

"I have not resigned. I have not received any instructions from the president. I wrote the President a letter and I told the president I am at his disposal. If he finds that there is something wrong, e di, he tells me to resign. It's as simple as that," he said.

Earlier this month, the SRA said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. authorized the planned sugar importation as the price of the commodity hit P100 per kilo in wet markets.

It showed a copy of Sugar Order No. 4 which showed Marcos’ signature authorizing the importation.

But Malacañang said the President had rejected the proposal.

"He is the chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board and denied this in no uncertain terms," Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in a statement, adding it was not Marcos' signature.

Valderrama has called for a fair probe on the issue.

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