PHILIPPINES: Call for soft drink boycott in face of HFCS spat

Published: 03/13/2017, 8:23:14 AM

Bacolod City Representative Greg Gasataya has requested the House committee on agriculture to hold the hearing on issues related to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) importation in Negros Occidental, according to the Philippines' Sun Star newspaper.

He said on Sunday the hearing should be held in the province so that Negrenses themselves could attend. Gasataya, along with some of his colleagues, had earlier authored a resolution urging the appropriate committee to immediately conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the impact of the importation, use, and sale of HFCS on the sustainability of the sugar industry.

Members of the Visayan Bloc led by Negros Occidental Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez also pushed for an investigation. Gasataya said the resolution is now in the committee on agriculture and it is being updated.

He said that maybe this week, the House committee on agriculture could finalize the schedule of the hearing. He added that there is a need to regulate the importation of HFCS since it really affects the sugar industry.

Gasataya pointed out that the importation and continued use of HFCS will cause a very unimaginable proportion of damage to all sugar industry stakeholders. In a related development, the Save-Sugar Industry Movement (Save-SIM) is calling for the boycott of softdrinks and other beverages with HFCS as ingredient.

Wennie Sancho, lead convenor of Save-SIM, said they will launch a campaign to stop the consumption of these products. We will start protest actions in the coming days, he said. Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines is seeking the nullification of the sugar order regulating the importation of HFCS.

Last week, the beverage giant filed a petition asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the order of Sugar Regulation Administration (SRA) regulating the entry of HFCS. In response, the SRA filed an opposition to the petition.

Sancho said the campaign is meant to make people understand why they should boycott softdrinks and other beverages. He stressed that the "economic interest of the country and the welfare of the people should be given priority over profit."

Sancho said these companies only want profit due to corporate greed. Lawyer Archie Baribar, spokesperson of Kilusang Pagbabago-Negros Island Region (KP-NIR), said he has yet to meet with his group to decide if they will intervene in the legal battle between SRA and Coca-Cola.

Named respondents in the TRO petition are SRA chief Anna Rosario Paner, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, and members of the Sugar Board. The next hearing will be held on March 20.

Paner had earlier assured the Negrenses and the industry stakeholders that they will defend the order and will put up a good fight. She added that it's their mandate to make sure that the livelihood of those in the sugar industry will be protected. Sugar Order No. 3 stated that the importer of HFCS must be registered with SRA and that applicants must also comply with the requirements otherwise, they will be penalized.