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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Bacolod: Alba, ‘not yet’ resigned as SRA chief

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Bacolod City – David John Thaddeus Alba recently said that he has “not yet” resigned as head of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, amid allegations of government-sponsored sugar smuggling involving three importers, as claimed by opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros.

Asked if he already submitted his resignation to Malacañang two weeks ago, Alba, in a phone interview, responded by saying “to get all the statements from the Department of Agriculture.”

Sources within the sugar industry disclosed that the resignation of Alba has not been officially acted upon by Malacañang.

Alba reportedly decided to resign from his position as SRA chief due to “pressure from above,” the imminent Senate hearing on sugar smuggling, and the controversial Sugar Order 6 that allows importation of 440,000 metric tons of sugar.

Hontiveros earlier urged the Senate Blue Ribbon panel to investigate what she called “government-sponsored” sugar smuggling.

In a statement, Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, said it is understandable that businessmen make a profit on their transactions.

But when such transactions are secured thru favoritism, then it is unfair to other traders. And when such profit is too high, and was secured thru questionable means, then it is grossly unfair to all consumers and other traders, Rojas said.

As to the resignation of SRA Administrator Dave Alba, Rojas said “we praise his decision to resign, if he reasonably feels that he is simply being manipulated to commit acts or omissions, which are disadvantageous and grossly damaging to the sugar industry.”

On the other hand, Malacañang said that the government has decided to sell confiscated smuggled sugar at affordable prices, rather than give it out for free, as this could result in an artificial drop in price that may affect small sugar farmers.

The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) confirmed that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. approved the recommendation of the Sugar Regulatory Authority (SRA) to sell confiscated smuggled sugar at P70 per kilo in Kadiwa stores.

Sugar is currently priced at around P86 to P110, based on the Department of Agriculture’s latest price monitoring report.

SRA board member and planters’ representative Pablo Luis Azcona disclosed that a total of 12,000 metric tons (MT) of smuggled sugar can be sold at Kadiwa outlets.

Of this number, at least 8,000 tons were confiscated in Batangas, while around 4,000 tons of sugar were seized in Subic, Azcona said. (Gilbert Bayoran via The Visayan Daily Star (TVDS), photo courtesy of TVDS)

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