Cebu News

SFI bans local food products: ‘Exclusive’ deal?

Ehda M. Dagooc - The Freeman
SFI bans local food products: �Exclusive� deal?
In a January 9 letter addressed to Labella, Virginia Foods Inc. (VFI) president Felix Tiukinhoy questioned the supposed junking of their long-standing partnership with SFI after the latter allegedly solely accommodated San Miguel Foods Inc.
Freeman Photo

CEBU, Philippines — A Cebu-based food processing company is seeking Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella’s intervention after it and other firms have reportedly been barred by the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) from selling their products during Sinulog-related activities.

 In a January 9 letter addressed to Labella, Virginia Foods Inc. (VFI) president Felix Tiukinhoy questioned the supposed junking of their long-standing partnership with SFI after the latter allegedly solely accommodated San Miguel Foods Inc.

 “We were informed that the reason we were not allowed to be a partner/sponsor this year was that Sinulog Foundation Inc. opts to engage in an exclusive sponsorship deal with San Miguel Foods Inc.,” Tiukinhoy said in the letter.

 This is not the first time an “exclusive” deal entered into by the SFI earned opposition. The foundation earlier agreed to give exclusive rights to Cebu-based cable station MyTV to broadcast the proceedings at the Cebu City Sports Center during the Sinulog Grand Parade on Sunday, only to be revoked by Labella.

Elmer “Jojo” Labella, the foundation’s executive director, is the mayor’s brother. The mayor, who sits as chairman of the Cebu City Sinulog Governing Board, said he was never informed of the contract SFI entered into with MyTV reportedly to the tune of P800,000.

“No more exclusivity… all media outlets are free to cover... no more qualification, no more condition,” the mayor told reporters at a press conference following criticisms on the broadcast arrangement.

‘Others Affected, Too’

This time, the city chief executive once again finds himself on the spot after food processors in Cebu are airing their gripe over the reported exclusive sponsorship the foundation forged with San Miguel.

Stanley Go, VFI vice president for marketing, said that VFI’s concern extends also to other Cebu-based food processors whose products are not allowed to be sold on the streets during the festival.

For Go, this is not a welcome development as Sinulog has always been driver of sales for many local companies.

 “This is the most anticipated festival for all of us. We also believe that Sinulog is the best window for Cebuano companies to showcase and feature their products,” he said.

He added that VFI, as well as other Cebuano food processing companies, are hoping that the SFI would consider the appeal.

 “After all these companies’ sponsorship offer is beyond business, but also to celebrate Cebu’s [religious] feast. Now, we are not allowed to celebrate the biggest festival in our own ground? In favor of non-Cebuano company?” Go stressed.

 Other Cebuano food processing companies include Belcris Food Inc., Sunpride Food Inc., and Kings Quality Foods. The FREEMAN tried to contact Mayor Labella and Jojo Labella for comments yesterday but to no avail.

Pork Ban stays

Meanwhile, pork products and co-mingled products covered by an extended ban, in relation to protecting Cebu Province from the African Swine Fever (ASF) virus, will continue to be unacceptable here in Cebu, the Provincial Information Office reported.

 Governor Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday said that while she is thankful of San Miguel Foods’ effort to extend support to the Sinulog festivity, she said the ban is still actively imposed, which recently included pork products and co-mingled products from Region 8 (Eastern Visayas).

“The executive orders remain in effect. We have not wavered in our resolve to continue protecting Cebu from the ASF. Right now we are receiving reports from reliable sources that ASF is now spreading to as far away as Bataan. We are in full support of the Sinulog as you may very well know. In many aspects, and I am confident that we all shall be united as Cebuanos in the veneration of the Santo Nino and in celebrating the Sinulog, but in the same manner should we all be united in protecting the local industry,” Garcia said.

San Miguel Foods, in a letter to the SFI mentioned of a sponsorship worth P3 million with P2,750,000 in cash and P250,000 in kind. Concession, based on the initial negotiation, pointed out of the merchandising and selling exclusively of Purefoods Hormel products like Tender Juicy, Purefoods Tocino, Purefoods Nuggets, and Star Corned Beef.

Tiukinhoy Jr., also the president of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc., wrote to Jojo Labella on the product sponsorship for Sinulog Festival by San Miguel Foods.

 According to Tiukinhoy, “entry ban on these pork-based products imposed by Cebu City and the Cebu Provincial Government remains in effect.”

“I hope you will take the ban into consideration and act accordingly,” Tiukinhoy’s letter read.

The 100-day ban was originally scheduled to end on December 8, 2019 but was extended until June 30, 2020. Dr. Rose Vincoy, chief of the Provincial Veterinarian’s Office, said that confiscation of banned pork products is still enforced.

“We continue to alert our ports of entry for possible banned cargoes with volumes of products expected to be moved through sea cargo,” Dr. Vincoy said.

 As for Garcia, she reiterated that “we have locally produced products that are determined to be ASF-free because we continue to be very vigilant.”

 “In fact, last Christmas we never run out of ham,” she pointed out.

“Jollibee and Chowking branches here have turned to sourcing locally their pork supplies,” she said.

“The ban has opened my eyes to an existing inequity. In the past, atong kwarta ang nakabuhi sa ilang negosyo pero na-plow back ba na diri? Wala. Tua na didto ang materyales gipamalit. Nganong dili man diri? Nga ang atong local hog-raisers are employing local people. Nakamata ko niini nga existing unfair situation,” the governor further said.  JMD (FREEMAN)

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