Makabayan lawmakers seek House probe into bukbok rice importation

Mara Cepeda
The progressive legislators argue Filipino taxpayers deserve to know how much of their money was spent for the importation of rice infested with weevil or 'bukbok'

BUKBOK RICE. Makabayan legislators want the House of Representatives to investigate the bukbok rice importation. Photo from Shutterstock

MANILA, Philippines – Seven lawmakers forming the progressive Makabayan bloc are seeking a congressional probe into the importation of thousands of bags of rice infested with rice weevils or bukbok from Thailand.

The Makabayan bloc filed House Resolution (HR) No. 2107 on Wednesday, August 29, a day after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol dismissed fears that the bukbok or weevil-infested rice is not safe for consumption. He even offered to eat it

In HR 2107, the lawmakers said that 130,000 bags of bukbok rice imported by the National Food Authority (NFA) arrived at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone from Thailand on August 2. Weeks later, another 200,000 bags of imported rice set to be unloaded in Tabaco City, Albay were also discovered to be infested with rice weevils. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is bukbok?)

Groups like Bantay Bigas, Amihan peasant women federation, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Pamalakaya-Pilipinas fisherfolk group have denounced the bukbok rice importation and blamed the rice crisis on the NFA’s “continued reliance” on imports.

“The groups asserted the infestation was brought about by long delay of its unloading, as it usually occurs when rice is stocked for a long period of time, the carrying out of fumigation is a threat to public health, and the quality of rice is already downgraded, as rice kernel on where the rice weevil incubates its offspring and serve as food, naturally crumbles and becomes powdery,” said the lawmakers.

The Makabayan bloc said they are seeking the investigation, in aid of legislation, because Filipino taxpayers deserve to know how much of their money was spent for the bukbok rice.

“It is of the people’s interest to know how much taxpayers’ money were spent for the infested rice, of public health on how much chemicals were used in fumigation, the determination of the end quality of the infested stock, and NFA’s plan of the infested stock, such as would it still be retailed by the NFA at the price of P27 or P32 per kilogram,” said the legislators. 

On the same day, Vice President Leni Robredo also called Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol “insensitive” for saying the soaring prices of rice supposedly benefit Filipino farmers. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.