By Ellson Quismorio
The chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food on Monday slammed the National Food Authority (NFA)’s statement that pest-infested rice was still safe to eat after fumigation, calling it “unacceptable.”
“It’s not [acceptable]. That’s irresponsible,” ANAC-IP Party-list Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr. told House reporters during the Ugnayan sa Batasan news forum.
Panganiban said he doesn’t agree with NFA officials’ statement that rice infested with rice weevil is still safe for consumption after treatment, particularly fumigation.
“We have already sent a letter to NFA na i-clear nila sa committee bakit nila sinasabi na ganun and pati sa DA (to clear to the committee why they are saying those things and also to the Department of Agriculture [DA]),” said the solon, who hails from Isabela.
Over the weekend, NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said the 100,000 sacks of imported rice that were found with an extra helping of rice weevil (bukbok) at Subic Bay Freeport Zone could still be eaten post-fumigation.
In fact, Estoperez said NFA personnel headed by administrator Jason Aquino would demonstrate just how safe it is by eating the rice once the fumigation process is done. Fumigation involves the use to gaseous pesticides to kill the pests.
Panganiban explained that it’s actually the DA’s job to determine whether or not imported goods are good to eat.
“DA kasi ang may jurisdiction sa inspection. Bago kasi lumabas ang kargamento ng Custom, dapat may certificate from DA na fit for human consumption (DA has jurisdiction over inspection. Before the cargo leaves Custom, the DA should certify it that it’s fit for human consumption).”
However, the House leader hinted that he personally wouldn’t relish having the “bukbok rice” on his dining table.
“Pag cinertify ng DA na pwedeng kainin, pwedeng kinain. Pero di ba, nakakatakot kainin di ba? (If the DA certifies it that it can be eaten, then it can be eaten. But it’s scary to eat, right?) he said.
The bukbok rice, which came from Thailand, was discovered amid various reports of rice supply shortages all over the country. Rice is a staple food in the Philippines, which is an agricultural nation.
“Mas malaki yung ating consumption kaysa sa ating production (Our consumption is bigger than our production), so we have to resort to importation [of rice],” Panganiban said.
He confirmed in the news forum that his committee will soon conduct an inquiry on the infested rice issue as well as the Zamboanga rice crisis.
Congress resumes its sessions Tuesday following a two-week recess.