MULTI-SECTORAL groups in Negros Island Region (NIR) are bent on campaigning for the boycott of beverage products, especially softdrinks, amid calls to stop the importation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The Save the Sugar Industry Movement (Save-SIM), during its launching at Gerald’s Restobar in Bacolod City Wednesday, said the move will complement the plan to hold protest rallies and bring to the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte the “devastating effects of importing artificial sweetener to the sugar industry.”

Save-SIM is a multi-sectoral alliance of labor advocates, workers, consumers, small entrepreneurs, and self-employed people who are directly and indirectly affected by the sugar industry.

Wennie Sancho, lead convenor of Save-SIM, said there is an urgent call for unity among small farmers and sugarcane workers, big planters, millers and sugar producers, and other stakeholders.

Sancho said they are appealing to concerned government agencies and officials to heed their call as he scored the Sugar Regulatory Administration for being “paralyzed” in this pressing social issue.

Sanlakas-Negros spokesperson Jun Año, one of the convenors, said they plan to launch the campaign of boycotting softdrinks if companies continue to import HFCS.

“We will urge Negrense consumers to ban softdrink products through the help of the media,” Año said, adding that they will also use the social media, and will distribute fliers and other information materials.

During the launching, Save-SIM passed a resolution addressed to the Office of the President, Sugar Regulatory Administration, Congress, and beverage companies.

The resolution signed by 18 convenors stated that “in order to avert the forthcoming economic disaster, including hunger and the possibility of a social unrest due to massive poverty, the issue on HFCS importation must be addressed immediately.”

“We appeal to concerned softdrink companies to consider the harmful effects of HFCS on the health of the people and stop its importation instantly,” it added.

The group further said the unabated importation of HFCS had driven down sugar prices by P300 per 50-kilo bag, and these could continue to decrease by up to P600 per bag.

From 2011 to September 2016, HFCS importation went up to almost 235,000 metric tons, the Save-SIM pointed out.

It also cited the data presented earlier by sugar industry leaders showing that for crop year 2016 to 2017, the industry will incur at least P25 billion in opportunity losses with Negros affected the highest, at 65 percent.