COKE BACK IN MASSKARA FESTIVAL AFTER SUGAR INDUSTRY LIFTS BAN
BACOLOD CITY — Coca-Cola Philippines has returned to one of the country’s biggest festivities, the MassKara Festival, after the sugar industry leaders lifted the boycott on its products in Negros Occidental.
“We’re honored to be back in the MassKara. We were part of the MassKara for 40 years and that’s why that was a bit of a setback in the past year. Now, we are happy to be here,” said Jonah de Lumen-Pernia, Coca-Cola Philippines public affairs and communications director, in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
During the event, the team of the beverage company, led by Pernia and Cecile Alcantara, president of Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, forged partnerships with the Sugar Regulatory Administration, SIMAG Foundation, and the Philippine Sugar Research Institute to improve the productivity and the well-being of small sugar farmers.
Part of the beverage brand’s events in the ongoing 39th edition of the festival, where it is one of the major sponsors, is a concert brought by Coke Studio dubbed “Homecoming”.
“Interestingly, the name is Homecoming. It is also about Coca-Cola coming home to the city and to Negros and for us to grow together,” Pernia added.
Negros Occidental is the Philippines’ sugar capital, producing about 60 percent of the country’s sugar output.
Early last year, sugar planters and workers protested against Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines Inc. upon knowing it was using the imported high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in its beverages instead of locally-produced sugar.
This led sugar industry leaders to also declare a boycott against Coke products in Negros Occidental, including its capital city of Bacolod.
In October last year, the Bacolod City Council unanimously passed a resolution banning the sponsorship and sale of Coca-Cola products during the 38th MassKara Festival in support of the sugar industry’s protest against the beverage giant’s use of HFCS.
Negros Occidental province was the first to declare the Coke ban during the Panaad sa Negros Festival in April 2017. The move was followed by several other towns and cities in the province, which also banned Coke products in their respective festivals.
Last month, Francis de la Rama, national president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, announced “the impasse between Coke and the sugar industry effectively ends, and the boycott launched against Coke is lifted” after officials of the softdrinks manufacturer “reiterated their support for the sugar industry by committing to buy a greater volume of local sugar this crop year.”
De la Rama said Coca-Cola will buy six million bags of domestic sugar over the coming months. (PNA)