I'M NOT a fan of the Negrense sugar industry. Back in the 1980s, I saw how the sugarcane monoculture has afflicted thousands of sugarcane workers where they suffered near-famine proportions.
More, how the Negrense biodiversity suffered incalculable losses when sugarcane growers cleared primary and secondary growth forests in lowlands and uplands to make way for sugarcane plantations.
And for health reasons, the World Health Organizations has shown that sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Large-scale studies have shown that the more high-glycemic foods (those that quickly affect blood sugar), including foods containing sugar, a person consumes, the higher his risk for becoming obese and for developing diabetes and heart disease.
Having said all that, however, I agree with Negrenses who criticized Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who told the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to suspend the implementation of the sugar order regulating the importation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
The prestigious Mayo Clinic described HFCS, a common sweetener in sodas and fruit-flavored drinks, has increased, so have levels of obesity and related health problems. Research has shown that high-fructose corn syrup is chemically similar to table sugar.
That's like asking consumers to jump from the frying pan to the fire. HFCS is not an alternative. Why choose a bad situation for a worse situation?
It's an irony of life that I find myself agreeing with the sugar stakeholders. Secretary Piñol has become a magnet for getting disparate stakeholders to unite into a common issue.
According to Secretary Piñol, as reported by The Manila Times (3/16/2017), "There is a problem with the SRA's Sugar Order No.3 because it will regulate the importation of HFCS. Now, Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola are appealing to me because they were not properly consulted."
He added, "They came to me. My recommendation to President Duterte is for him to authorize me to hold in abeyance Sugar Order No. 3 pending proper consultations with the stakeholders," the DA chief added.
Piñol said there is a need to protect big investments because "Any change in the type of sugar that they will use in producing their softdrinks will involve changing their machineries and equipment."
Huh? Is he now lawyering for these giant multinational companies who can tap their corporate lawyers who can argue their case in our courts?
Has Piñol even considered the machineries of our sugar centrals? Or the small plantations of agrarian reform communities who insist on continuing the only farming they know: sugarcane farming?
Are the Negrense sugar industry children of a lesser god that they have to take the back seat to legal protection of the foreign sector interests?
I stand for the protection of Filipino interests. We may squabble among ourselves. But against outsider interests, we stand together.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 20, 2017.
Latest issues of SunStar Bacolod also available on your mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Subscribe to our digital editions at epaper.sunstar.com.ph and get a free seven-day trial.