Sugar alliance dismayed at Piñol; DA chief responds

THE Sugar Alliance of the Philippines (SAP) were dismayed that Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol withdrew Sugar Order No. 3 seeking to regulate the importation of high fructose corn syrup.

Filipino sugar farmers, planters, millers and all sugar federations and associations asked Piñol if he has already abandoned the industry.

In a statement, the SAP said sugar farmers are dismayed by the call of Piñol, who himself belongs to a family of farmers. They said Sugar Order No. 3 was intended to support the sugar workers.

Piñol’s appeal to SRA directly contradicts Duterte’s love for the Filipinos and preference to support all Filipino farmers, they added.

“Agriculture Secretary Piñol, why have you abandoned us and why do you favor instead a foreign multinational?” the SAP asked.

The statement was signed by Philippine Sugar Millers Association executive director Francisco Varua, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters Inc. president Enrique Rojas, Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc. president Danilo Abelita, Sugar Master Plan Foundation Inc. president Pablo Lorenzo III, Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc. president Francis de la Rama, United Sugar Producers’ Federation of the Philippines Inc. president Manuel Lamata and Philippine Association of Sugar Refiners Inc. president Bernardo Trebol.

In a protest rally held in front of the Coco-Cola bottling plant in Bacolod City Monday, about 6,000 Negrenses called on the public to boycott the beverage giant, which allegedly uses HFCS as sugar alternative.

The demonstrators also torched a 20-foot effigy of a softdrinks bottle with a caricature of Piñol on top. They also accused the Agriculture Secretary of being a traitor and anti-farmer.

However, Piñol said he does not have an interest in the beverage giants and dared the sugar planters to prove that he receive money from them.

“Show proof that I am corrupt and I will resign immediately,” Piñol wrote on Facebook Tuesday.

“Without even presenting proof, placards hoisted by the well-organized and obviously well-funded demonstrators called me ‘Money Piñol,’ insinuating that I received money from Coca-Cola and calling me anti-farmer,” Piñol wrote.

He blamed the previous administration for allowing the entry of HFCS in the country.

He clarified that he did not ask for the scrapping of the sugar order but simply recommended that it be held in abeyance pending the resolution of the issues raised by Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola which are legitimate businesses operating in the Philippines for so long now.

“I believe that if things could be worked out, the sugar industry could get a bigger share of the sugar requirements of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola, thus getting a better deal,” he said.

Piñol added that he was also included in the injunction case filed by Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines to nullify the sugar order pending before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

“I have no interest in Coca-Cola or Pepsi Cola. I do not even drink soft drinks anymore,” Piñol said.

The agriculture chief added Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola started relying heavily on the use of HFCS about five years ago when the prices of local sugar doubled compared to that of sugar coming from Thailand.

“Nobody complained about HFCS until the prices dropped from P1,800 per bag to P1,300 last week. That was when the SRA, where I sit as chairman of the Board, recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte that the import of HFCS should have a cap of just over 280,000 metric tons a year,” he said.

He said that Duterte supported the SRA proposal and it led to the issuance of Sugar Order No. 3 which places a cap on the volume of HFCS to be imported and imposes stiff tariff and duties on the imported commodity.

He said that the management of Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola met with him to ask for a dialogue with the sugar industry stakeholders and the SRA so that a “win-win” solution could be reached.

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