PHILIPPINES: Agri secretary slammed for suggesting suspension of HFCS order

Published: 03/17/2017, 9:53:55 AM

Negrenses assailed the statement of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, declaring that the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) should suspend the implementation of the sugar order regulating the importation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), according to the Philippines' Sun Star newspaper.

Piñol, in a report that came out in Manila Wednesday, said that the implementation of the sugar order should be deferred because the beverage firms claimed they were not properly consulted. He said he recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte to authorize him to hold in abeyance the sugar order pending proper consultations with the stakeholders.

However, SRA chief Anna Rosario Paner said they have "done necessary consultations" before the issuance of Sugar Order No. 3. She added that they received 36 position papers regarding the unabated importation of HFCS believed to be killing the sugar industry.

Paner said she is set to meet with Piñol in the coming days to explain the side of SRA. Earlier, the court denied the petition of Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Sugar Order No. 3 regulating the importation of HFCS.

The hearing on the petition for injunction will be held on March 20. For his part, Negros Occidental Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said that since the court has denied Coke's petition for TRO, it should be respected.

"Secretary Piñol should respect the process for the rule of law, lest we start to believe that he is favouring big business over our small planters," the vice governor said.

Wennie Sancho, lead convenor of Save-Sugar Industry Movement (Save-SIM), said they strongly denounce the statement of Piñol.

"The suspension will open the floodgates of HFCS importation which is detrimental to the sugar industry. The decline in the millgate prices of sugar could be attributed to the increased entry of HFCS last year," he said.

He said it is not within the power of Piñol to suspend the sugar order, adding that "he should not usurp the power of the SRA administrator." Sancho added that Piñol should rethink his position because it is counter-productive.

"His priority should be the Filipino people and not the foreign capitalist who owns the beverage companies," he added.

Hernani Braza, secretary-general of National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines, said that HFCS will destroy the lives and the future of sugar workers and their families, adding that the sugar order is the solution to the crisis brought by the entry of HFCS in the country.

He added that Piñol should be "declared persona non grata for his inhuman acts against the sugar industry." Meanwhile, thousands are expected to join the protest of multi-sectoral groups in front of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City on Monday.

The protest will be led by the Confederation of Sugar Producers Inc., National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, and United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines.