PHILIPPINES: Calls for wider discussion on sugar industry in light of HFCS

Published: 02/22/2017, 10:04:18 AM

Several groups have expressed apprehension over the order of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to regulate the importation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), according to the Philippines' Sun Star newspaper.

Though they welcomed the move to regulate the HFCS entry, the groups claimed that the order failed to address the effects of HFCS importation to the sugar workers and the health of the consumers. Wennie Sancho, lead convenor of Save-Sugar Industry Movement (Save-SIM), said they still have to see a copy of the sugar order so they will know its implications to the workers in the sugar industry.

"There's an economic issue if the prices of sugar will go down, which will affect employment," he said. He added that the adverse effects on the health of the people were not emphasized in the order.

"The well-being and welfare of the people is more important," Sancho said.

Sancho said it's "highly possible" that softdrink companies will contest the sugar order and will bring the battle to the court. He added that there's a need to "strictly regulate" the sugar order since there are still imported HFCS in warehouses which are yet to be released.

"But overall, this is a good achievement for the sugar industry stakeholders," Sancho further said.

Gilda Caduya, president of Altertrade Philippines Inc., said in a press statement that they welcome the move of President Rodrigo Duterte to swiftly act on the issue, but they feel that only part of the problem was addressed.

"It is only the issues and concerns of the industry leaders that are being addressed," she said. Caduya added: "In this light, we are putting forth issues on two fronts: sugar workers wages and benefits resulting from the regulation of the HFCS entry vis-à-vis the liberalization of agricultural products on top of the alleged technical smuggling and the ill-effects on the health of consumers."

The statement said the socio-economic condition of sugar workers in Negros Occidental did not change. "Even the demand for wage increase remains a tall order for the sugar workers mainly because of the resistance of the big sugar planters - the sugar industry leaders as employers," Caduya added.

"We call on the concerned government agencies most especially the President to look into these equally major and immediate concerns and take immediate actions the same way he should be taking actions on the demand of the sugar industry leaders," she said.

She added that the plight of the sugar workers is worse than the impending danger posed by HFCS among sugar industry leaders. Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte met with the sugar industry leaders in Davao City.

He committed to stop sugar smuggling and directed SRA to take appropriation action. Upon Duterte's orders, the SRA issued a sugar order on the issuance of clearance for the release of imported HFCS.

The order said the importer of HFCS must be registered with SRA and that applicants must also comply with the requirements otherwise, they will be penalized.