PHILIPPINES: Nearly 6,000 protest Coca Cola and call for ag secretary to step down

Published: 03/20/2017, 3:45:58 PM

Nearly 6,000 stakeholders of the country's sugar industry called for a boycott of all products of beverage giant Coca-Cola and for the ouster of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol during a rally in front of the company's Bacolod plant on Monday, according to the Philippines' Manila Times newspaper.

Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines plans to bring the mass action to the national offices of the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City, Coke headquarters in Taguig City (Metro Manila) and push for an immediate Senate investigation.

"We cannot take this sitting down just for the sake of their own profits," according to Lamata, saying they "cannot comprehend why Piñol would side with the foreign multinational companies."

Last week, Piñol said he wants implementation of Sugar Order (SO) No. 3 deferred "pending consultations with softdrink makers."

He is currently in Myanmar as part of the delegation of President Rodrigo Duterte and could not be contacted for comment.

Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), said they will seek a dialogue with Piñol to ask him for an explanation.

"We met with President Rodrigo Duterte with the help of Bukidnon Gov. Jose Zubiri in Davao where he promised to help the sugar industry with our problem on high fructose corn syrup," Rojas said.|

"Pinol was not there," he added.

On the other hand, Francis de la Rama, president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Inc. (Confed), called for "unity among the stakeholders of the sugar industry."

In a rare occasion, labor leaders joined on stage their traditional adversaries in sugar planters.

Environment group Green Alert Negros called for a ban on HFCS, which they claimed has genetically modified organism "that is harmful to health of humans and causes obesity and diabetes."

Sugar planter groups from from Panay and Negros Oriental sent representatives to the protest action.

Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, Bacolod Councilor Cindy Rojas, Bago City Mayor Nicolas Yulo and Murcia Vice Mayor Jerry Rojas read letters of support for Sugar Order 3 and the stand of the sugar industry.

Meanwhile, Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. told Rojas he will ask the Sanggunian Panlalawigan to pass a resolution not to make Coke as sponsor of the annual Panaad Festival of the province as well as a ban on selling of Coke products during the event.

The rallyists burned a big effigy of a Coca-Cola bottle with the head of Piñol.

The three-hour program caused a major traffic jam in the area that stretched more than five kilometers along Murcia-Alijis highway, the entry point to Bacolod City from the east.

More than 60% of the country's sugar production come from Negros island.

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