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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, July 12, 2011
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Boycott on Coke still on,
Sugar Watch, Confed say

BY CARLA GOMEZ

"We did not and we do not intend to call-off our boycott against Coca-Cola products," Hernane Braza, Sugar Watch (SW) spokesperson, said yesterday.

SW earlier declared a boycott on Coca-Cola products in protest against the firm's importation of premix sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), instead of buying local sugar.

Raymond Montinola, chairman of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations-Negros Panay Chapter, said, “Like Sugar Watch, the CONFED Board has decided that its boycott action against Coke is still in effect.”

Until Coke makes good its promise to buy local sugar and stop importation of premix sugar and HFCS, the CONFED board yesterday decided that it will remain vigilant and will validate Coke’s promise before taking any action, he said.

Coca-Cola in a meeting withPhilippinesSugar Alliance officials in Makati last week announced that it has called off it's importation of premix sugar for the third and fourth quarter of this year, and that it continues to buy local sugar.
It also said it aims to buy five million 50 kilo bags of domestic sugar in 2012 and has not placed any orders for importation of premix sugar and HFCS.

Braza, at a press conference at the Negros Press Club in Bacolod City yesterday, said for the interest of all sugar industry stakeholders, especially the small farmers, agrarian reform beneficiaries and sugar workers, SW stands by its unified stand to boycott Coca-Cola products and is demanding that the firm make a firm commitment to support the survival of the Philippine sugar industry first.

It is also demanding that a congressional inquiry in aid of legislation still be held to look into the importation of premix sugar and HFCS.

SW is not aware and not privy to the meeting called by Coca Cola and the Sugar Regulatory Administration with the PSA, and is still waiting for the promise of SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista Martin and Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. to mediate between them and Coca-Cola, Braza added.

Martin yesterday said she gave the SW position paper to Coca- Cola and will facilitate a dialog as soon as they reply.
SW demands that Coca-Cola show proof in writing to be made public and to be confirmed by SRA reflecting the volume of Philippine sugar it bought, Braza said.

As long as Coca-Cola uses HFCS as reflected in their packaging, SW will militantly continue its boycott campaign, he added.

SW will also not lift its boycott until Coke-Cola pays tariffs amounting to about P1.7 billion on premix sugar it earlier brought into the country, Braza said.

SW, whose members come from the poor and oppressed sector of the sugar industry was not included in the dialog between PSA and Coca-Cola, because as usual they are always taken for granted, Wennie Sancho, an SW convenor, said.

We were not at their meeting and are not bound by any agreement, we will continue our boycott, he said.

SW will continue to remain vigilant against Coca-Cola despite its pronouncements that it will buy local sugar, Randy Ronquillo, a SW convenor, said.

We have to see how sincere Coca-Cola is on its promise first, Guillermo Barreta of SW added.

Braza said while the planters also used them for their cause, he denied allegations that their group had been paid to stage their protests against Coca-Cola.

The people who are saying that are just trying to discredit us because SW has shown what can do to fight for the protection of the sugar industry, Sancho added.

Braza said a return in the profitability of sugar will strengthen their continuing lobby for higher wages for the workers.*CPG

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