SRA chief quits for ‘health reasons’ as latest sugar imports controversy takes new twist


SUGAR Regulatory Administration (SRA) Administrator David John Thaddeus Alba has resigned amid the controversial importation of 440,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar.

SRA Board Member and Planters’ Representative Pablo Luis Azcona said in an interview that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. had accepted the courtesy resignation of Alba, but denied that the SRA chief was a “sacrificial lamb” in the new sugar mess.

Azcona said, “He (Alba) was not the sacrificial lamb. Administrator Alba decided to resign based on his health. He cannot control his blood pressure. To this day, Administrator Alba has not been mentioned or implicated in any of the accusations thrown about in the media.”

For his part, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) President Enrique Rojas said, “We praise his (Alba’s) 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.”

Alba was appointed in August 2022 following the resignation of then SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, who stepped down from his position in the wake of the issuance of Sugar Order (SO) 4 authorizing the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar.

Moreover, the sugar chief had approved the issuance of clearances on the 440,000 MT sugar imports following a memorandum from Department of Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban directing him to certify the legality of the outsourced sweetener.

In a memorandum dated February 27, Panganiban tasked AIba to issue the necessary documentation to three importers—All Asian Countertrade Inc. (240,000 MT), Edison Lee Marketing (100,000 MT) and S&D SUCDEN Philippines Inc. (100,000 MT).

On March 22, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Marcos should order the immediate seizure of the illegally imported sweeteners and blacklist the erring importers.

Earlier, the senator urged the Senate Blue Ribbon panel to investigate what she described as “government-sponsored” sugar smuggling.

Furthermore, Azcona defended the move of the DA and SRA to allow the arrival of the 440,000 MT of imported sugar, noting that All Asian Countertrade, Edison Lee Marketing and Sucden Philippines were able to comply with the requirements set by the SRA.

“Undersecretary Panganiban also submitted all the sugar to the control and classification of the SRA. They also paid all the proper SRA fees,” he said.