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Coca-Cola still sugar industry ‘partner’

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The Coca-Cola System said it “has always been and will continue to be a strong partner of the Philippine sugar industry” and is “deeply concerned that the misunderstanding on the importation of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has affected our relationship with the sugar industry and the people we proudly serve in the Negros region.”

In a statement released Friday, the company said “ at times when there is a disagreement, there are always viable solutions that all sides can amicably reach in an atmosphere of respect and openness. The misguided call to boycott our products is not one of them. We are disappointed that the industry that we have long considered our partners are pushing for this.”

It said the sugar industry’s call to boycott Coke products “affects many more workers and consumers along the economic value chain than some of our partners in the sugar industry realize.”

The loss of sales from a boycott “will hit the local communities the hardest: These are not lost profits, so much as they are money taken away from the people who work the most — the sugar farmers themselves; the small micro-entrepreneurs who sell our products; the men and women behind the local businesses that sell us ingredients or packaging and who stock their shelves with our products,” the firm said.

Coca-Cola said its bottling facility in Negros Occidental “produces beverages with 100 percent locally-sourced sugar.” It added that it is expanding its bottling operations in Bacolod City by adding a new production line worth $17 million.

Aside from supporting the local sugar industry, Coca-Cola said it “has been able to positively impact Filipino communities through its sustainability programs. In the Negros region alone, the Company’s women economic empowerment program, the 5by20 Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) Program, has impacted over 5,000 women micro-entrepreneurs in the province.”

The water access program of Coca-Cola, AGOS, which provides a water system that elevates water without need for electricity, provides access to approximately 25,900 liters of water daily to communities.

Coca-Cola said it remains a main driver of the sugar industry’s growth. “A study conducted by the University of the Philippines and the Sugar Regulatory Administration, found that the beverage industry uses 40 percent of the total Philippine sugar production, a bulk of which Coca-Cola purchases.”

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