The police are on full alert for a“big rally”calling for a boycott of food and beverage firms' products using High Fructose Corn Syrup,which is expected to cause traffic jams in several areas in Bacolod City this morning.
About 5,000 sugar industry stakeholders and Negros Occidental officials are expected at the anti-HFCS rally in front of the Coca-Cola plant in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City, their spokesperson, Emilio “Dino” YuloIII, said yesterday.
Traffic congestion, especially for travellers from San Carlos City and Salvador Benedicto town, is expected with about 150 cane trucks expected to join the protest.
Effigies will be torched at the rally to condemn those using HFCS,and government officials who are supposed to have the mandate to protect the agricultural sector but coopted, Yulo said, specifically citing Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
The sugar industry contributes almost $2 billion to the Philippine economy annually, but Piñol wants Sugar Order No. 3 that allows the regulation of HFCS entering the country to be put on hold, Yulo pointed out.
PIÑOL ACTS QUESTIONED
Through this protest, we hope President Rodrigo Duterte will intervene and ask Piñol to “stand-down” instead, and allow the SRA to protect the sugar industry, he added.
The action of Piñol has already been brought to the attention of the President, he said.
“This issue is beyond politics. This is a cause that everyone here in Negros and in other parts of the country should embrace as this is killing not just an entire industry, but an industry that is the source of livelihood of more than 5 million Filipinos, an industry that is present in 14 provinces, an industry that has helped build the economy of this country,” Yulo said.
He said they arealso asking the general public to support the call to boycott beverage companies that use HFCS instead of local sugar.
“We are appealing to HRANO and tiangge owners to stop patronizing these products as well,” he added.
Yulo said the rally organizers “have sought the assistance of the Bacolod traffic management group but we are asking the public to avoid these areas, and seek their understanding and sympathy for our cause,” he said.
The three areas of convergence will be along the Bata-Airport circumferential road for the north contingent, Cegascocircumferential road for the south and another in Murcia town near the public cemetery, he said.
The protestors will be gathering as early as 6a.m. and will be lining up along those roads to pull-out together at around 7:30a.m. for the rally site at the Coca-Cola plant, Yulo added.
The groups are expected to be at the Coke plant around 8a.m. and they also have emergency units to ensure the safety of all, Yulo added.
POLICE RESERVE FORCE
Senior Supt. Jack Wanky, Bacolod police OIC director, said a police reserve force will be tapped to secure the rally. Coca-Cola security have been asked to be unarmed and to stay within the premises of their facility to prevent any untoward in incident, he said.
Gov. Alfredo Marañon will attend the protest along with ViceGov. Eugenio JoseLacson, who will read the provincial board resolution against the use of HFCS instead of locally-produced sugar by beverage companies and other industrial users, Yulo said.
Mayors of Negros Occidental towns and cities along with members of their councilswill also attend the rally and Association of Chief Executives president, Victorias Mayor Francis Palanca, will read their manifesto of support for this protest action, Yulo added.
Yulo also announced that the PDP-Laban Negros, through its Sec. Gen. Yves Akol will also join the protest along with some of their party mates.
Sugar industry stakeholders have been protesting against the massive importation of HFCS as a substitute for locally produced cane sugar, prompting the Sugar Board to issue Sugar Order No. 3 to regulate HFCS entering the country.
Coca-Cola FEMSA, in turn, filed a civil suit seeking to stop SRA from enforcing SO No. 3 before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court,whichdenied its bid for a temporary restraining order. The court, however, will hold a hearing this morning to determine the aptness of Coke's bid for a writ of preliminary injunction and eventually a permanent injunction.
Also expected at the protest today are delegations from Panay, and Bais and Bayawan in Negros Oriental, and this its also being supported by sugar industry stakeholders in other parts of the country, he added.
LABOR AND OTHER GROUPS
“We have labor and other cause-oriented groups who will be with us and we call on the others to join us, as this issue goes beyond the sugar industry's interest but will eventually kill the Negros economy if not addressed,” he said.
A message of support from Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri will also be read during the protest action along with the resolution from the provincial government of Bukidnon, the Bacolod City Council and the Provincial Council of Legislators, Yulo said.
He said Senator Cynthia Villar has promised to expedite the Senate hearings on a resolution filed by Senators Zubiri and Richard Gordon questioning the massive importation of HFCS into the country.
Meanwhile, he said they have informed bus companies to reroute their vehicles passing through Murcia town to take the Abuanan road all the way to the south to reach Bacolod.
“We are also asking the public coming from that area to leave early if they have businesses in the city proper as we are expecting a road closure by 8 a.m., as our trucks will be coming in from all points,” Yulo said.*CPG
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