Challenge accepted: Piñol eats bukbok rice, galunggong

Ralf Rivas
Challenge accepted: Piñol eats bukbok rice, galunggong
'Ako mismo nagsaing,' says Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol sought to ease public concerns over consuming weevil-infested rice and galunggong (round scad) by sampling them himself on live television on Friday, August 31.

“Puwedeng kainin, ipapakita ko sa inyo…. Ako mismo nagsaing nito (It’s edible, I’ll show it to you…. I cooked it myself),” he said in a UNTV report on Friday, before digging into the rice and fish meal.

He ate the meal with gusto to assure the public that even weevil-infested rice is safe to eat. (EXPLAINER: What is bukbok?)

Piñol also showed viewers a small container of uncooked rice crawling with weevils.

BUKBOK RICE. Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol shows uncooked rice with live weevils. Screengrab from UNTV

The agriculture chief also clarified that he did not insist that he would eat bukbok rice.

“Wala akong sinabing kakain ako ng bukbok. Ang sinasabi ko lang, huwag nating itapon ang bigas na ginapangan ng bukbok kasi ‘pag hinugasan yan, makakain yan,” Piñol said.

(I did not say that I will eat weevils. What I’m saying is don’t throw out weevil-infested rice because you only need to wash it to eat it.)

In an interview with ANC on August 27, he said, “Serve me that bukbok rice, I will eat it.”

Piñol took the meal in Marilao, Bulacan, and not in the Department of Agriculture (DA) premises in Quezon City where protesters attempted to serve him bukbok rice.

The National Food Authority (NFA) and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in Bicol on Friday, August 31, declared a shipment of rice imported from Thailand as cleared of bukbok after nearly two weeks of fumigation.

Piñol paired the rice with galunggong which was in the news as well as its imported version supposedly contained formalin.

The DA allowed imports of galunggong to maintain a steady supply in markets as closed fishing season neared.

“Gawa-gawa iyan ng mga negosyante na ayaw nila na ‘yung bagong import system natin, dadaan na sa mangingisda ang mga import (That is a made-up story of businessmen because they do not want the new import system where fishermen can directly import),” Piñol said.

Senator Cynthia Villar previously recommended that the public should avoid eating imported galunggong as a safety precaution following allegations of tainted fish sold in markets. – Rappler.com

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.