‘HFSC did not cause sugar oversupply’

BACOLOD City – Top officials of Coca Cola FEMSA said its use of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) or corn sugar did not cause the current oversupply of sugar in the Philippine market.

Juan Lorenzo Tañada, corporate affairs and legal director of Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines, said Coca-Cola remains one of the strongest partners of the local sugar industry.

Tañada claimed that a review of the events in 2016 will show that approximately 250,000 metric tons of sugar were allowed to be imported by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

Also, excess sugar in 2016 was carried over to 2017, thus the supply glut.

Tañada represented the beverage company in the Senate Committee hearing on the impact of HFCS importation on the sugar industry on Apr 18.

“In fact, our bottling facility in Negros Occidental produces beverages with 100 percent locally-sourced sugar since it opened its plant in Bacolod in 1998.”

Sugar industry stakeholders are up in arms over Coca-Cola’s use of HFCS as substitute for local sugar and even initiated a boycott of its products.

“We wish to continue to work with the government, and the stakeholders of the local sugar industry, to reach a solution to the current situation that is acceptable to all concerned,” said Adel Tamano, vice president for Public Affairs and Communications of Coca-Cola Philippines, in a statement distributed to reporters covering the Senate hearing.

Tamano also pointed out that a study cited by the Sugar Regulatory Administration and conducted by the University of the Philippines School of Statistics that the total local beverage industry, including Coca-Cola, uses approximately 40 percent the total Philippine domestic sugar production.

“As such, Coca-Cola remains a committed partner of the local sugar industry and one of the main purchasers of local sugar,” he stressed.

In a meeting with officials of the Department of Agriculture and SRA, Coca-Cola executives said the beverage company already increased by 50 percent their purchase of local sugar in 2017.

Tañada said they also have social programs to help the host community.

In Negros Occidental alone, he cited the company’s women economic empowerment program, the 5by20 Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) Program, has impacted over 5,000 women micro-entrepreneurs.

The water access program of Coca-Cola, AGOS, which provides a water system that elevates water without need for electricity, has reached communities in Negros Occidental.

“AGOS has been able to provide access to fresh water in 25 communities in the province. An average of 27,100 liters of water reach each community daily,” Tañada said.

“Cognizant of our responsibility and commitment to be a productive and responsible partner in Philippine development, we are concerned that the misunderstanding on the importation of HFCS has affected our relationship with the sugar industry.”

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