SRA, sugar producers hopeful of bringing back sweet ties with Coke PH’s new owner
BACOLOD CITY — Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Board Member Dino Yulo and Confederation of Sugar Producers President Francis de la Ramaare optimistic on the takeover of the Coca-Cola Company’s unit of its bottling operations in the Philippines.
“(We are) hoping this will augur well for the industry and we are ready to work together with Coke Atlanta,” Yulo said in a press statement issued on Sunday.
Although Yulo said what he feels was “guarded optimism,” he was hopeful for “more transparency and collaboration between Coke and the sugar industry.”
De la Rama, who heads the biggest sugar planters group in the Philippines, said in a statement “we are very happy with this development.”
“This will definitely mend the rift between the sugar producers and Coke under FEMSA,” he added.
On Friday, the Coca-Cola Company announced its Bottling Investments Group (BIG) will take over bottling operations in the country after Mexico’s Coca-Cola FEMSA decided to sell back its 51 percent stake in Coca-Cola Philippines to the Atlanta-based parent company.
The move is still subject to regulatory approval, it said.
John Murphy, president of the Coca-Cola Company’s Asia Pacific Group, said in a statement they respect the decision of Coca-Cola FEMSA, which had a five-year tenure in the Philippines.
“The Coca-Cola Company will work to ensure a smooth transition of the Philippines bottling operations, for all customers, business partners, consumers and, importantly, for all those who work in the bottling operations,” he added.
Since early last year, Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines had been facing protests led by the sugar planters associations which claimed its use of imported high fructose corn syrup as alternative sweetener is killing the sugar industry.
In Negros Occidental, which produces 60 percent of the country’s sugar output, a ban on the sale and advertising of Coke products in festivals around the province was led by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. himself.
For its part, Coca-Cola Philippines, a major sugar buyer, said its bottling facility in the capital city of Bacolod produces beverages with 100 percent locally-sourced sugar since they opened their plant in Barangay Mansilingan in 1998.
De la Rama said Winn Everhart, president and general manager of Coca-Cola Philippines, told him that “he will fix the problem.”
“With this, I personally feel that we can sit down and work together in the future,” he said.
He added that Coca-Cola has indicated they are ready to send a technical working group to sit down with sugar producers to discuss how best they can address the company ’s sugar supply need.
“We are ready to get down to it as soon as possible,” de la Rama said. (PNA)