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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, October 4, 2017
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Blocking Coke out


For the first time since 1980, Coca Cola is out as an official sponsor and major participant in the MassKara Festival. The reason is the resolution of the Bacolod Sanggunian to the Silver MassKara Foundation to block Coke out of the festival in support of the boycott of the product called by the leaders of the Philippine sugar industry. The foundation cannot refuse this resolution because it depends mainly on the goodwill of the SP for funding.

I had anticipated this situation when we managed the festival in 1982 because I know politicians decide not so much for the common and future good but for their perceived political benefit. Thus we kept the festival going for over 20 years without asking for a single centavo from the city and thus nothing to account to the politicians and to bend to their wishes. Private sponsors, in need of festivals of this nature with a mass following jockeyed to sponsor. We were not beholden to politicians but only to insure the success of the festival and to a large extent we succeeded.

That the present MassKara management chooses a different track is its concern. But I had warned before of this eventuality: that dependence on the city government for funds carries serious risks of subservience and political intervention. The festival ought to rise above politics and partisan agenda of the moment. It is unfortunate that the city council has adopted the boycott for a festival of international stature in effect making it a political football.

San Miguel Corporation, Coca-Cola, and, in smaller way Pepsi Cola, were the main pillars of the festival that allowed it to continue for years. This support cannot be just set aside without considering their role I know enabled the festival to continue for over two decades without a centavo from the city. Whatever budget the city appropriated was for its own participation but not for the festival itself.

I am not saying the city is ungrateful or without any sense of it, because these companies benefited more from their support of the festival. On the other hand, would the festival have continued after the corruption scandal of the 1981 celebration when the city managed it? Mayor Evelio Leonardia knows because he was there when a fateful decision was made after SMC and Coke and other beverage companies pledged financial support. They never wavered throughout the years but now Coke was booted out.

The reason for blocking off Coke is that it uses High Fructose Corn Syrup. If that be the case, then San Miguel beer, Pepsi Cola and a dozen other beverages should be blocked off as well because they also use HFCS. Should not the law be applied similarly where it is applicable? Why the discrimination?

The Bacolod Coca Cola plant declared in their advertisements that it is using 100 percent Negros sugar. Is the company telling the truth? I supposed it would not lie because this claim can easily be factually proven with a check from their sugar supplier Victorias Milling Co. or even an audit of the sugar they used.

Pepsi Cola claimed it is also using, for its Negros operation, 100 percent cane sugar and so the planters, and subsequently Bacolod SP, did not include this company in the boycott. Have they checked the veracity of Pepsi's claim or did the SP swallow what was was published by Pepsi or claimed by the planters? How about Coke? Did they check? The data of Pepsi's sugar purchases are interesting, but that's for another discussion.

If the SP was fair and not just playing heroes before the sugar producers, they should have taken this simple step because by blocking off Coke they actually worked against the welfare of hundreds of people earning from the festival.

If they bothered to check and thought more intellectually and impartially they would have also realized that their decision was against the interest of the Negros planters.

Since Coke claims it uses 100 percent Negros sugar in its Bacolod operation and this has not been proven false, I assume it is true. Thus by boycotting the product that uses Negros sugar, the festival reduced the sale of Coke, consequently its consumption of Negros sugar. Who loses?

The answer is simple: the planters and millers, the sellers, the festival management and Bacolod tax collection, aside from an angry constituency.*



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