About 6,000 protestors gathered in front of the Coca-Cola plant in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City, yesterday morning to slam the “massive” importation of High Fructose Corn Syrup to the detriment of the Philippine sugar industry, and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol for allegedly “favoring” the foreign multinational firm.
The protestors called for a boycott of Coke and other beverage firms using HFCS, claiming this has caused a drop in domestic sugar prices from above P1,800 per LKg in December to a little above P1,300 Lkg last week.
The protestors who gathered in front of the Coca-Cola plant at Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod, stalled and slowed traffic from about 8 to 11 a.m. as a battery of speakers from planters and labor groups, and government officials warned of the demise of the Philippine sugar industry if the massive importation of HFCS is not curbed.
BANNED AT PANAAD
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañonhas banned Coca-Cola sponsorship and sales at the province's annual Panaadsa Negros Festival in April, ManuelLamata United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. president, said.
An effigy about 20-foot tall of a Coke bottle with the head of Piñol on top of it was torched, as singers sang a jingle of how HFCS will kill those who consume it and the livelihood of millions of Filipinos who depend on the sugar industry for their survival.
Last week Piñol was quoted as saying Sugar Order No. 3, which grants the Sugar Regulatory Administration authority to regulate the entry of HFCS into the country, should be set aside pending dialog with softdrink-makers.
In a joint statement yesterday sugar groups said “The Filipino sugar farmers are now dismayed by the call of Agriculture Secretary Piñol , who himself belongs to a family of farmers, for SRA to withdraw Sugar Order No 3 when the same was intended to support the Filipino sugar farmer.”
They said Pinol's appeal to the SRA directly contradicts President Rodrigo Duterte's love for Filipinos and preference to support the Filipino farmers.
“Agriculture Secretary Piñol, why have you abandoned us and why do you favor instead a foreign multinational?” they asked.
Among the messages on the placards at the rally said “Sec. Money Pinol, hudaska”, “Piñol, Pro-Coke, Anti Farmer” and “No to drugs, no to Coke, no to HFCS”.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, in a statement read for him by Pontevedra Mayor Jose Benito Alonso, aired his support to fellow Negrenses protesting against those who are favoring the use of HFCS over locally grown sugar.
“Along with Senators Cynthia Villar and Richard Gordon and other senators who feel the plight of our sugar farmers who have been affected by the unabated entry of HFCS in the country, we promise to fast-track the Senate inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the impact this will cause to our sugar industry,” he said.
“I am one with you, and all other sugar industry stakeholders in fourteen provinces nationwide, in condemning these multinationals and other HFCS industrial users that has led to the drastic drop of sugar prices,” Zubiri said.
More than 5 million Filipinos are dependent on this industry and we will not allow these foreign companies to crush their livelihood, he said. This is the lifeblood of Negros that accounts for more than 60 percent of our sugar produce in this country and the unabated entry of HFCS will led to the demise of the industry that we have grown to love and vow to protect, Zubiri added.
FIGHT TO CONTINUE
Lamata, Enrique Rojas – National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president, Francis de la Rama – Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations president, DaniloAbelita- Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers president and Negros Occidental Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacsonvowed to continue the fight against the massive importation of HFCS at a press conference after the rally.
The sugar leaders planto stage rallies at the office of Piñol and at the Coke headquarters in Taguig, Lamata said.
They also plan to explaintheir cause in various parts of the country to convince more people to boycott all beverages containing HFCS.
At the rally, statements of support for the battle against HFCS were read by Vice Governor Lacson for the Negros OccidentalSangguniangPanlalawigan, Councilor Cindy Rojas for the Bacolod SangguniangPanlungsod, Bago Mayor Nicolas Yulo for the Negros Association of Chief Executives, and Murcia Vice Mayor Gerardo Rojas for the Negros Occidental Vice Mayors League.*CPG
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