Probe on weevil-infested rice, Zamboanga rice crisis sought

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 29) — Minority lawmakers on Wednesday called on the House of Representatives to investigate two incidents that had an impact on rice supply. 

House Resolution 2107 calls on the Committee on Agriculture and Food to investigate the importation of over 300,000 sacks of rice infested by weevil or bukbok this month. The National Food Authority (NFA) fumigated the infested stock and quarantined it for 12 days.

"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 lawmakers said in their resolution. They are Representatives Ariel Casilao, Carlos Zarate, Emmi de Jesus, Antonio Tinio, Arlene Brosas, France Castro, and Sara Elago.

They also want to know the quality of fumigated rice as the NFA plans to sell it at P27 to P32 per kilogram.

Another measure, House Resolution 2018, calls for a probe on the Zamboanga City rice crisis, even as the Department of Agriculture already declared it over last August 24.

The city was placed under a state of calamity on August 21 due to a rice shortage. Prices shot up to P70 pesos per kilogram in remote villages, based on the City Agriculture Office report.

"According to Bantay Bigas rice watch group, the rice crisis of Zarnboanga City is a microcosm of the instability of food security in the country, where self-sufficiency is neglected, the stock is controlled or dominated by the private sector, and the government agency, NFA who is mandated to stabilize supply and prices totally rely on imports, and abandoned local procurement of palay from Filipino farmers," the resolution read.

Meanwhile, Senator Cynthia Villar, Committee on Agriculture and Food chairman, on Tuesday said the recent spike in rice prices and the infestation of imported rice showed the NFA failed to do its job. Officials from the NFA and its policy-making body NFA Council blamed each during a congressional hearing on rice prices Tuesday. Villar called for setting a price ceiling on the staple.