6,000 protest in Bacolod vs Coca-Cola’s shunning of PH sugar
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental — At least 6,000 protestors gathered in front of the Coca-Cola plant in Bacolod City to slam its massive use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to the detriment of the Philippine sugar industry.
They also lambasted Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol for allegedly “favoring” a foreign multinational firm.
The protestors also 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 50-kilogram (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 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 was not curbed.
A 20-foot effigy of a Coke bottle with the head of Piñol on top of it was torched, as singers sang an Ilonggo jingle of how HFCS would kill those who consume it and the livelihoods of millions of Filipinos who depend on the Philippine sugar industry for their survival.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon has banned Coca-Cola sponsorship and sales at the province’s annual Panaad sa Negros Festival in April, said Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc.
The massive importation of HFCS prompted the Sugar Board to issue Sugar Order No 3 granting the Sugar Regulatory Administration power to regulate HFCS entering the country.
This prompted Coke to file a civil case against Piñol, Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, SRA chief Anna Rosario Paner and Sugar Board members Hermenegildo Serafica and Roland Beltran.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang denied Coke’s bid for a temporary restraining order and a hearing for a writ of preliminary injunction set on Monday (Mar. 20) was postponed, Enrique Rojas, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president, said.
Last week, Piñol was quoted as saying Sugar Order No 3 should be held in abeyance, triggering anger and disappointment among sugar industry stakeholders.
Sugar groups in a joint statement said on Monday the Filipino sugar farmers have become dismayed by the call of Piñol, who came from 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 contradicted 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. SFM/rga