Business: Pre-Mixed Sweeteners Declared Refined Sugar
A special committee in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has declared the imported pre-mix sweeteners as refined sugar and is therefore, imposed a 38 percenttariff once it comes into the country, overjoyed leaders of Sugar Watch, a sugar industry watchdog, composed of several labor unions declared in an interview with newsmen, yesterday morning and during a press conference at the office of the National Confederation of Unions in the Sugar Industry in the Philippines (NACU-SIP) lead by its Secretary-general Hernani Braza.
Among those who attended and were present during the conference aside from Braza, were Guillermo Barreta Jr. of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Ma. Elena Chavez of Dagyaw, based in Murcia, Ranny Ronquillo, Wennie Sancho and their supporters. Once the decision becomes final and executory, the government will impose a 38 percent tariff on the imported sweeteners. Although after the uproar over the importations has stopped, the BOC estimated that the tax accountability of Coca-Cola against, when the tax is to be slapped at between P5-6 billion.
"This is nothing less than a form of technical smuggling," Braza said during the press conference. "Charges could be slapped against Coca-Cola Bottling Company of the Philippines.
The workers further said that criminal charges could be filed against the bottling company.
The coalition expressed its thanks for the favorable decision of the BOC committee, especially Customs Collector Ruffy Biazon, his deputy Chavez and SRA Administrator Gina Martin as well as sugarcane planters’ organizations which extended support to Sugar Watch when it carried out several protest actions against the company’s importations of pre-mix sweeteners, in the process jeopardizing the domestic sugar industry because Coke, a substantial user of sugar in its concoction, heavily buys sugar from abroad.
With the very high tariff rates imposed on the artificial sweeteners, the price of the commodity would greatly increase, making it possible for domestic or local sugar to be patronized by beverage firms.
This would be auspicious and positive for the domestic sugar industry, a possible solution to the expected crisis which could ensue once tariffs were removed under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the World Trade Organization (WTO) would set in 2015.
With this, the domestic sugar industry would also become viable.
The price of sugar per picul could then be increased without the need of enforcing higher tariff rates.
To be benefited by the ban on importation of the artificial sugar would be small sugar planters, including the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (ARBs) of the DAR.
This would further prove that Coke has been doing something illegal, they said.
The Sugar Watch started its campaign in June 2010, with a fairly large protest action before the beverage company’s bottling plant in Brgy. Mansilingan.*