"THE proposal of Coca-Cola to amend the law to lower the tax on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a huge insult to our lawmakers who passed the law and to almost one hundred thousand sugarcane farmers who will lose their livelihood," said Enrique D. Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP).
In a letter dated July 23, 2019 addressed to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines Chief Executive Officer Gareth Mcgeown asked the government to "revisit and amend the excise taxes on sweetened beverages".
The excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) took effect on January 1, 2018, as part of the broader new taxes under Republic Act 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Law.
It imposed a P12 peso per liter tax on SSBs using HFCS and a P6 per liter tax on SSBs using local sugar to discourage the consumption of SSBs and address the increasing number of diabetes and obesity incidence in the country, while raising revenue for the government and protecting the livelihood of the five million Filipinos dependent on the sugar industry.
"This law is less than two years old, but Coke is already proposing to amend it, simply to protect its business and increase its profits, to the disadvantage of Filipino sugarcane farmers, who are mostly agrarian reform beneficiaries, and of the Philippine government's tax-raising efforts," Rojas added.
Agrarian reform beneficiaries, who cultivate sugar farms of less than three hectares, comprise about 90 percent of the almost 100,000 sugarcane farmers in the country, according to figures from the Sugar Regulatory Administration.
The ARBs and their families will lose their sole source of income, if Coke is allowed to import HFCS without any government regulation and to use HFCS, instead of locally-produced sugar, in its products. The loss of livelihood of the ARBs will result to discontent and social unrest in the countryside, Rojas warned.
He further said that Coke's proposal to amend a barely two-year old law reflects its disrespect for the sugarcane farmers and the sugar industry, for the entire Philippine agriculture sector, and for the Philippine government.
"There is no reason for Coca-Cola to insist on importing HFCS and lowering the excise tax on HFCS, because Coca-Cola is already allowed to import bottler's grade sugar for its products. SRA allows such importation, as long as its volume and timing is regulated by SRA, such that the importation will not depress local sugar prices," Rojas explained.
Instead of importing and using HFCS, Rojas recommended that Coke should help the sugarcane farmers increase their productivity and assist the millers increase their efficiency in producing high quality bottler's grade sugar needed by Coca-Cola.
"Instead of killing the sugar industry, Coke should help the industry stakeholders, because the sugar industry also forms a large part of Coke's millions of Filipino consumers, who are the source of Coke's hundreds of billions of profit in the Philippines," Rojas pointed out.
"We call on government to protect the livelihood of millions of Filipino farmers, instead of protecting the selfish interest of multi-national corporations like Coca-Cola, who are earning hundreds of billions of pesos in profit from Filipino consumers every year," he stressed.
"We also call on all stakeholders in the sugarcane industry to prepare ourselves for a larger, more intensive boycott of Coca-Cola products, if Coke will continue with its plans," he further said. (PR)