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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, July 1, 2011
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RDC calls on Coke to buy local sugar
HIGH DOMESTIC COST
CITED FOR IMPORTATION

BY CARLA GOMEZ

The Western Visayas Regional Development Council yesterday approved a collegial resolution calling on Coca-Cola and other similar industries to buy sugar produced domestically.

Herman Santos of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association, and Hernane Braza of Sugar Watch sought the RDC’s support for the Philippine sugar industry at its meeting at the Capitol in Bacolod City.

They pointed out that the importation of sugar premixes and high fructose corn syrup is badly hurting the domestic sugar industry, which prompted their campaign to boycott Coca-Cola products.

Ma. Luisa Segovia, RDC 6 vice chair and a trustee of the Iloilo Business Club, suggested that a resolution be worded more positively by calling on Coca-Cola and other industries to patronize local sugar.

Tourism Regional Director Edwin Trompeta moved that it be made a collegial resolution.

Santos said CONFED thanks the RDC for supporting their cause.

On Wednesday Negros Occidental congressmen said they will seek a House inquiry into the importation of premixes and High Fructose Corn Syrup in response to complaints from the sugar industry.

JB Baylon, public affairs and communication director of Coca-Cola and president of the Beverage Industry Association, in an interview yesterday morning with Vic Mecado on his program Mercado Publiko aired over DYRL, stressed that Coke’s importation of premixes that contain sugar at zero tariff is allowed under Executive Order 850.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration and sugar industry leaders claim that Coca-Cola premixes contain 99.5 percent sugar and have asked the Bureau of Customs to slap it with a 38 percent tariff required on imported sugar.

Premixes should only contain 65 percent sugar, they said.

Baylon, on the other hand, said a 38 percent tariff is required for 100 percent refined sugar imported into the country in 2011.

However, the tariff code also provides that if sugar above 65 percent in dry weight is mixed with coloring and flavoring it can enter the country at zero tariff, he said.

He said Coca-Cola is prepared to comply with the decision of the Bureau of Customs’ valuation committee that has been conducting hearings on its premix importation.

If it is ruled that we were wrong, then they will comply with its order, he added.

Baylon said Coke had to import its sugar premixes from Thailand because prices in the Philippines reached a high of P2,700 per Lkg that was much higher than rates elsewhere.

However, if prices in the Philippines are not so high that their firm will not lose, there is no question that Coca-Cola will buy locally, he added.

He said at the start of the year firms set their budgets and the target prices for their products to be sold in the market.

If the price of ingredients go up, they look for other sources so they can keep the rates of their end products at the same level and operate within their budget, he said.

Filipino consumers are very price sensitive so it is important for softdrink companies to keep their prices within a narrow band, he said.

He said they respect those who do not wish to buy their products, but at the same time they cannot be forced to buy ingredients beyond their budget, which will affect the prices of their products.

Baylon also debunked claims that High Fructose Corn Syrup is a health hazard, pointing out that its use is approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration, and by similar agencies in other countries.

Echoing the call of Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Baylon said the Philippines must prepare to sell its sugar at prices competitive with other countries by 2015 when the tariff on imported sugar is lifted.*CPG

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