Labor groups declare DA’s Piñol ‘persona non grata’
Gilbert P. Bayoran (The Freeman) - March 26, 2017 - 12:00am

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — Despite a “win-win solution” to the controversial issue on importation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), it did not stop various labor groups in Negros Occidental to declare Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol as ‘persona non grata’ or an unacceptable person.

The labor groups issued the declaration in reaction to the “insensitive statements on the social media (of Piñol) by calling them well-funded demonstrators,” which they said was “an insult to the dignity of all workers in the sugar industry.”

The resolution approved by the General Alliance of Workers Associations (GAWA), an umbrella organization of the different labor and agrarian reform organizations in Negros Occidental—claiming to have about 10,000 members—that also called for the resignation of Piñol as agriculture secretary.

GAWA secretary general Wennie Sancho said the resolution states: “He (Piñol) does not deserve to stay in his position for being anti-worker, anti-people and anti-poor.” Piñol reacted to this by telling ABS-CBN News: “Let them do it, that’s their call.”

GAWA and its affiliated labor organizations were among the participants of the protest last Monday staged in front of the Coca-Cola bottling plant at Barangay Mansilingan in Bacolod City. The groups said they "were dismayed" over the move of Piñol to suspend Sugar Order No. 3, regulating the release of imported HFCS into the country that disrupted the domestic market for sugar.

"It seems that Secretary Piñol is not aware of the disastrous economic consequences that shall occur if the sugar industry collapses," they said in a resolution.

Piñol, on an FB post, said: "Coca Cola Femsa Philippines is willing to buy more local sugar for its soft drinks production but asked for a 6-month period to be able to install new clarification equipment which would process raw sugar to syrup."

He also disclosed that the company informed him of its decision to spend "a few million dollars more" just to show to President Rody Duterte that it is willing to help the local sugar farmers.

The DA secretary also got the ire of sugar industry leaders and farmers on his recommendation to President Duterte that Sugar Order No. 3 issued by the SRA should be held in abeyance to allow Coca-Cola and other beverage companies to make adjustments in their processing equipment."

The SRA order was issued in the face of plummeting prices of local sugar which dropped from P1,800 per 50-kilo bag to only P1,300 last week. Sugar farmers blamed this on the increased use by beverage firms of the lower-priced HFCS, imported from China.

Unless Coca-Cola puts its commitment to buy more local sugar in writing, in the form of purchase orders, we cannot take its statement seriously, according to Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters.

“Last year, Coke also assured sugar industry leaders that it would minimize its High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) importation and would buy a large volume of domestic sugar. The next thing we knew, Coke had imported 234,863 metric tons of HFCS as of September 2016, its largest importation in the past six years,” Rojas said.

Coca-Cola reported that about 200 containers of HFCS are held in the different ports of the country and that it has slowed down its operations to ensure that the current HFCS inventory of the company will sustain their soft drinks production until the issue is resolved, Piñol said.

Rojas declared. “For now, Sugar Order No. 3 is still in effect. The reported moratorium on its implementation is just a proposal. In other words, it is illegal for Coke to import and withdraw HFCS without SRA clearance. We in the Sugar Alliance remain vigilant that no HFCS is released to Coke.” (FREEMAN)

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with