Sugar leaders still ‘open to talks’ with Coke

SUGAR leaders in Negros Occidental are not closing their doors on beverage giant Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines as long as they remain true to their intention.

In a statement issued on Thursday, May 18, former vice governor Emilio Yulo III, spokesperson of Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, said they are “open to talks” with Coke and other industrial users as long as they “remain transparent” and will be “earnest in their desire” to continue having a harmonious relationship with the sugar industry.

“We believe that this is an opportunity for both the sugar industry and Coke, along with other stakeholders, to sit down, talk and forge new partnerships,” Yulo said.

Coca-Cola had sought the nullification of Sugar Order 3, regulating the importation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), but they later withdrew the case as announced by their lawyer on Tuesday.

Yulo said they welcome the development, adding that they believe it is “a positive step and a confidence-building measure from the beverage company if they want us to take them seriously.”

“There is nothing impossible and we hope that this will start a fresh round of talks now that legal impediments are out of the way. This though will only work if we bring something concrete to the table and hopefully on a long-term basis,” Yulo added.

He also lauded the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and the Bureau of Customs for “standing firm” in the implementation of Sugar Order 3, which took effect on March 10.

“As we mentioned in the recent congressional hearing, this industry, though has very little support from the National Government vis-à-vis sugar industries from other competing countries, is lucky that we have the SRA mandated to protect our interest and we believe that SRA Administrator Anna Rosario Paner has done a good job in protecting us,” Yulo said.

The announcement of Coca-Cola to withdraw the case came five days after the Sugar Anti-Smuggling Organization (Saso) filed an outright smuggling complaint against the softdrinks company following its alleged importation of HFCS without SRA clearance.

READ: Sugar leaders slam Coke for ‘outright smuggling’

Yulo said the smuggling case of Coke is a “different matter,” adding that the company will have to answer that in courts.

He said they hope that Saso will continue to be vigilant on the entry and withdrawal of HFCS without clearances.

Local governments units and various establishments in the province have joined the campaign to boycott Coke, which allegedly uses HFCS.

For his part, Wennie Sancho, lead convenor of Save-Sugar Industry Movement, said they are observing a “cooling off period” on the Coke boycott starting on Thursday.

This means they will temporarily stop agitating for the boycott of Coca-Cola products, giving the beverage giant the benefit of the doubt to make good their legal pronouncement to respect the sugar order for the sake of industrial peace.

“This is also to give way for confidence-building measures to prosper for the good of the sugar industry,” he added.
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