A Sugar Regulatory Administration report shows that Coca-Cola imported more than 10,000 metric tons of premix sugar from September to November 2011 contradicting its officials earlier promise to the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines to stop its importation, Luis Tongoy, a director of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, said yesterday.
“And the SRA continues to issue clearances to release imported sugar from the Bureau of Customs despite assailing the tariff classification declared by Coke,” he said.
CONFED and other sugar and labor groups last year declared a boycott on Coca-Cola products for its importation of sugar allegedly in the guise of premix to avoid paying the 38 percent tariff on imported sugar.
Coca-Cola, however, has insisted that its actions are legal. A case against Coca-Cola for its importation of the premix sugar is now pending before the Valuation and Classification Review Committee (VCRC) of the Manila International Container Port, Tongoy said.
Sugar Regulatory Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin said the “Coke representative did promise to lessen and eventually stop importation of premix by 2012.”
Actual data of premix importation from September to November 2011 is 203,200 bags or 10,160 mt compared to same period in 2010 which was 13,325 mt, she said.
The SRA is obliged to issue clearance to release from BOC in order to comply with the country's free trade agreements, she explained.
However, SRA made sure that such imported premix would not be released to the domestic market by classifying the premix as C or reserve sugar, Martin added.
Coke has also complied with SRA's requirement of buying two bags of local refined sugar for every one bag of premix imported, which was classified as C or reserved, she said.
The tariff issue is a concern of BOC which is separate from the regulatory power of SRA of issuing release clearance from BOC, she said.
Industrial users and food processors have admitted to buying cheaper forms of sugar when price of sugar reached beyond P2,500 per lkg refined in 2010, she said.
SRA supports the call for BOC to impose a 38 percent tariff on imported sugar premixes but a VCRC decision is still being awaited, she said.
Meanwhile, the SRA can be held liable for not issuing the corresponding clearance if the premix importer has complied with all regulatory requirements, she said.
The only way to stop the release of imported premixes is for the sugar industry to seek a temporary restraining order in court, so that the importer could not blame SRA for any damages of its imported premix, Martin added.
The DAILY STAR tried but was unable to get Coca-Cola’s side as of press time.*CPG