Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines yesterday maintained that it has always been and will continue to be a strong partner and driver of the Philippine sugar industry.
In a statement furnished the DAILY STAR, it said a boycott on its products will threaten the Philippine sugar industry itself.
“We are thus dismayed by the call to boycott our products, made by members of the industry that we have long considered our partners. The truth is that the loss of sales from a boycott will hit the local communities the hardest,” it added.
“We are proud to be one of the main purchasers of local sugar, a key ingredient to ensuring the quality of our beverages,” it said.
Sugar industry leaders, however, have blamed what they call the massive importation of HFCS by Coca-Cola and other beverage firms as a substitute for the drop in domestic sugar prices.
Coca-Cola, in a civil case it filed against Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Customs Commissioner NicanorFaeldon, SRA chief Anna Rosario Panerseeking nullification of Sugar Order No. 3 that grants SRA authority to regulate the entry of HFCS, said it is contractually bound to pay for its HFCS deliveries to the tune of 320,000 MT worth P4.9 billion this year.
Manuel Lamata, United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. president, saidCoke's bringing in 320,000 tons of HFCS will destroy the domestic sugar industry.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang denied Coke's bid for a temporary restraining order and the hearing for a writ of preliminary injunction set yesterday was postponed, Enrique Rojas, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president, said.
The court denied the petitions of the Philippine Sugar Millers Associations and the four sugar federations to intervene in the case, Rojas said, but their lawyers are filing motions for reconsideration.
“In the last 5 years where HFCS has been entering the Philippine market, the industry has not really complained. But now that the 2016 HFCS volume is equivalent to more than 5 million bags that eats up 33 percent of the country's entire refined sugar market, there is reason for the industry to be seriously concerned and seek assistance from SRA,”Paner said following the issuance of Sugar Order No.3.
But Coca-Cola, in its statement yesterday, said the “call to boycott our products, anchored on unfounded allegations made regarding the usage of HFCS, affects many more workers and consumers along the economic value chain than some of our partners in the sugar industry realize.”
“We believe in responsibly participating in processes that promote reasonable policies which allow every stakeholder to compete on a level playing field. A misguided boycott will only cause harm to the communities we serve,” it said.
A study conducted by the University of the Philippines, cited by the Sugar Regulatory Administration, found that the beverage industry uses 40 percent of the total Philippine sugar production, Coca-Cola said.
“We will remain a main driver of the sugar industry's growth, and we especially recognize that integral to this is maintaining a healthy agricultural supply chain by ensuring the welfare of all of its parts. This boycott will, unfortunately, threaten the sugar industry itself by targeting the very people who patronize and support it,” it said.
Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines, it said, remains fully supportive of the Philippine sugar industry, and most especially of the government's mandate of enabling its growth, development, and sustainability to achieve global competitiveness through the active participation and involvement of the private sector.
“We have always sought to provide opportunities for productive lives through employment and livelihood, including comprehensive programs that seek to nourish the communities we proudly serve. We remain committed to using our extensive local and global resources and capabilities to help protect the people and the communities where we are,” Coca-Cola said.*CPG
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