Press Release
September 10, 2018


"The single biggest hallmark of government incompetence."

This was how Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros described the reported weevil infestation involving over 100,000 sacks of imported rice languishing at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Hontiveros issued the statement coinciding with the Senate's hearing of the Department of Agriculture's (DA) proposed 2019 budget on Monday.

"Bakit tayo umabot sa ganitong kalagayan? Bakit kailangan magtiis ang mamamayan sa bukbok na bigas? Bakit imbes na itaas ang kalidad ng pagkain sa bansa ay tila pinipilit tayo na masanay sa mababang uri?" Hontiveros asked.

"No matter how many cups of weevil-infested rice our public officials eat, no matter how safe they all claim it to be, our people shouldn't have to endure eating this kind of food if only our government had done its job in ensuring the country's food security. The government has thousands and thousands of sacks of rice and it just let it get infested? If this is not gross incompetence, I don't know what is," Hontiveros said.

The Senator said that this could have been averted if there had been a decisive shift in the government's rice policy. She said that lowering the price of rice should have been the priority of the government by shifting from quantitative restrictions to moderate tariffs if necessary, timely imports even under the present regime while providing protection to and ensuring the competitiveness of Filipino farmers, and mandatory buying of local palay from smale-scale farmers to augment the country's emergency rice reserves.

She also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Competition to stricly monitor hoarding and profiteering activities in the rice industry. She also asked the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) and National Nutrition Council (NNC) to provide updates on the consequence of high rice prices on health indicators of children in poor families.

DOH inspection of bukbok rice sought

Meanwhile, Hontiveros called on the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct a thorough inspection of the weevil-infested and fumigated rice. She said that the government must ensure that the public's health is not endangered in any way.

"Secretary Duque said that the weevil-infested rice poses no harm to consumers unless the pest has massively infected the rice supply. But what constitutes a massive infestation? How infected is our rice supply? What kind of weevils infested our rice supply? Are they home grown or did they come from where the imported rice was sourced? What was the fumigation method used and does it satisfy health standards? These are some of the questions we hope that the DoH, through an official and comprehensive inspection, can help us answer," Hontiveros said.

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