NFSP con­demns Coke pro­posal to lower HFCS tax

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“THE pro­posal of Coca-cola to amend the law to lower the tax on high fruc­tose corn syrup (HFCS) is a huge in­sult to our law­mak­ers who passed the law and to al­most one hun­dred thou­sand sug­ar­cane farm­ers who will lose their liveli­hood,” said Enrique D. Ro­jas, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Sug­ar­cane Planters (NFSP).

In a let­ter dated July 23, 2019 ad­dressed to Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Car­los Dominguez, Coca-cola Beverages Philip­pines Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Gareth Mc­ge­own is ask­ing the govern­ment to “re­visit and amend the ex­cise taxes on sweet­ened beverages”.

The ex­cise tax on sugar sweet­ened beverages (SSB) took ef­fect on Jan­uary 1, 2018, as part of the broader new taxes un­der Repub­lic Act No. 10963 or the Tax Re­form for Ac­cel­er­a­tion and In­clu­sion (TRAIN) Law.

It im­posed a P12 peso per liter tax on SSBS using HFCS and a P6 per liter tax on SSBS using lo­cal sugar to dis­cour­age the con­sump­tion of SSBS and ad­dress the in­creas­ing num­ber of diabetes and obe­sity in­ci­dence in the coun­try, while rais­ing rev­enue for the govern­ment and pro­tect­ing the liveli­hood of the five mil­lion Filipinos de­pen­dent on the sugar in­dus­try.

“This law is less than two years old, but Coke is al­ready propos­ing to amend it, sim­ply to pro­tect its busi­ness and in­crease its prof­its, to the dis­ad­van­tage of Filipino sug­ar­cane farm­ers, who are mostly agrar­ian re­form ben­e­fi­cia­ries, and of the Philip­pine govern­ment’s tax-rais­ing ef­forts,” Ro­jas added.

Agrar­ian re­form ben­e­fi­cia­ries, who cul­ti­vate sugar farms of less than three hectares, com­pose about 90% of the al­most 100,000 sug­ar­cane farm­ers in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Sugar Reg­u­la­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The ARBS and their

fam­i­lies will lose their sole source of in­come, if Coke is al­lowed to im­port HFCS with­out any govern­ment reg­u­la­tion and to use HFCS, in­stead of lo­cally-pro­duced sugar, in its prod­ucts. The loss of liveli­hood of the ARBS will re­sult to dis­con­tent and so­cial un­rest in the coun­try­side, Ro­jas warned.

He fur­ther said that Coke’s pro­posal to amend a barely two-year old law re­flects its dis­re­spect for the sug­ar­cane farm­ers and the sugar in­dus­try, for the en­tire Philip­pine agri­cul­ture sec­tor, and for the Philip­pine govern­ment.

“There is no rea­son for Coca-cola to in­sist on im­port­ing HFCS and low­er­ing the ex­cise tax on HFCS, be­cause Coca-cola is al­ready al­lowed to im­port bot­tler’s grade sugar for its prod­ucts. SRA al­lows such im­por­ta­tion, as long as its vol­ume and timing is reg­u­lated by SRA, such that the im­por­ta­tion will not de­press lo­cal sugar prices,” Ro­jas explained.

In­stead of im­port­ing and using HFCS, Ro­jas rec­om­mended that Coke should help the sug­ar­cane farm­ers in­crease their pro­duc­tiv­ity and as­sist the millers in­crease their ef­fi­ciency in pro­duc­ing high qual­ity bot­tler’s grade sugar needed by Coca-cola.

“In­stead of killing the sugar in­dus­try, Coke should help the in­dus­try stake­hold­ers, be­cause the sugar in­dus­try also forms a large part of Coke’s mil­lions of Filipino con­sumers, who are the source of Coke’s hun­dreds of bil­lions of profit in the Philip­pines,” Ro­jas pointed out.

“We call on govern­ment to pro­tect the liveli­hood of mil­lions of Filipino farm­ers, in­stead of pro­tect­ing the self­ish in­ter­est of multi-na­tional cor­po­ra­tions like Coca-cola, who are earn­ing hun­dreds of bil­lions of pe­sos in profit from Filipino con­sumers ev­ery year,” he stressed.

“We also call on all stake­hold­ers in the sug­ar­cane in­dus­try to pre­pare our­selves for a larger, more in­ten­sive boy­cott of Coca-cola prod­ucts, if Coke will con­tinue with its plans,” he fur­ther said./pr

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