Approximately 6,000 people rallied in front of the Coca-Cola plant in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental at around 8 am on Monday to protest the company’s preference in using high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) instead of sugar from the Philippines. They also slammed Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol for supposedly favoring foreign companies over the country’s sugar industry. Read on to learn more about it.

Here are three fast facts about the protest against the Coca-Cola plant in Bacolod

1. The protest in Bacolod called for a boycott of beverage companies using HFCS due to its negative effect on the local sugar industry

The rally in Bacolod, which includes sugar planters, government officials and labor groups, warned of the possible death of the sugar industry in the Philippines if the import of HFCS remains unchecked. The preference of beverage companies in using HFCS over sugar in the country has already caused a drop in domestic sugar prices to just above P1,300 per 50-kilogram (Lkg) last week, according to a report from The Philippine Daily Inquirer. In December, its price was above P1,800 Lkg.

2. They are also calling for Agriculture Secretary Piñol’s dismissal

Aside from protesting against Coca-Cola and other beverage companies that import and use high fructose corn syrup, they also aired their grievances about Piñol’s desire to defer the implementation of Sugar Order (SO) No. 3 "pending consultations with softdrink makers." They even burned a 20-foot effigy of a Coca-Cola bottle with Piñol’s head on it.

"We cannot take this sitting down just for the sake of their own profits," The Manila Times reported Manuel Lamata, United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines president, as saying.

Lamata added that they can’t understand why Piñol would take the side of the foreign multinational companies. He said that the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines is also planning to bring the protest to the Coke headquarters in Taguig City and the DA office in Quezon City. The group also wants to push for a Senate investigation into the matter.

Piñol is currently in Myanmar. He is part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s delegation there.

3. Coca-Cola sponsorship and sales banned at the Panaad sa Negros Festival

According to Lamata, Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon has banned the sales and sponsorship of Coca-Cola at the province’s Panaad sa Negros Festival in April. Aside from this, the Green Alert Negros environment group also called for a ban on HFCS because they claim that not only does it have genetically modified organism (GMO), but that it is also harmful to the health of humans and causes obesity and diabetes.

Sugar Order (SO) No. 3 Background

SO No. 3 gives the Sugar Regulatory Administration power to regulate the importation of HFCS in the Philippines. A civil case was even filed by Coke against Piñol, Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Anna Rosario Paner, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and Sugar Board members Roland Beltran and Hermenegildo Serafica because of SO No. 3.

However, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang denied the company’s bid for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The hearing for a writ of preliminary injunction which was scheduled on Monday was also postponed, according to National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president Enrique Rojas.

Meanwhile, the SRA said that it was not required to consult beverage makers before issuing an order that regulates the entry of imported HFCS into the Philippines.

"The SRA’s point was in the exercise of our quasilegislative powers, the agency is not required to have prior consultations before coming up with our rules and regulations,” BusinessMirror reported Paner as saying.

Here are some reactions on Twitter about the use of HFCS:

What do you think of the protest against the Coca-Cola plant in Bacolod? What about the rampant use of HFCS instead of sugar in beverages? Let us know in the comments section below.

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