Marcos picks 3 new SRA officials amid sugar importation mess

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 20) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has appointed three new officials of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), including a replacement of its chief who resigned over the supposedly illegal order to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez confirmed on Saturday the appointment of David John Thaddeus Alba as acting SRA administrator.

Alba replaced the agency’s former head, Hermenegildo Serafica, who is among the four signatories of the controversial Sugar Order No. 4 which Marcos did not authorize.

The President also picked Pablo Luis Azcona and Ma. Mitzi Mangwag to represent sugar planters and sugar millers, respectively, Rodriguez said.

According to stakeholders in the sugar industry, hundreds of thousands of local farmers and farm workers would have been affected if the massive importation plan pushed through.

Besides Serafica, Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian and millers' representative Roland Beltran have stepped down from their posts following the controversy.

Sebastian was first among the three to tender his resignation, saying he takes accountability for signing the memo on behalf of Marcos who sits as Agriculture secretary and chairman of the SRA board. 

Beltran followed suit, citing health reasons.

He also explained that his vote on the importation order was "conditional subject to compliance of the provisions of laws, rules and regulations and the internal processes of SRA."

Serafica, meanwhile, said he quit with a “clear conscience,” as he maintained he performed his functions within the bounds of the law.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is set to investigate the controversial order on Aug. 23, while two committees of the House of Representatives are also looking into the issue.

Marcos earlier said that besides a top-level reshuffle at the SRA, he wants to conduct an inventory of the supply of sugar in the country with the help of stakeholders, including companies, planters, millers, and suppliers.