Piñol accepts challenge, eats bukbok rice

Piñol accepts challenge, eats bukbok rice
Piñol said he would resign only if ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, stressing that he served at the pleasure of the appointing power.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol accepted critics’ challenge to eat bukbok (weevil)-infested rice in a bid to prove that imported grains with presence of pests are safe for consumption.

In a Facebook post, Piñol shared a video of him eating bukbok-infested rice and galunggong (round scad).

The Agriculture chief recently drew public backlash proposing plans to import more rice and fish, as well as legalize rice smuggling, in a bid to fight rising inflation. Various groups even called for Piñol’s resignation, which he strongly rejected.

Lawmakers last month warned the National Food Authority that the 330,000 bags of rice it imported may be unfit for human consumption due to weevils. The NFA, for its part, denied that it is selling bukbok-infested rice in the market amid the continuous fumigation of imported rice.

“These canards are gross attempts to discredit the Duterte Administration,” Piñol said.

Inflation has particularly hit the poor as rice prices continue to surge after government stock of cheap rice they purchase was depleted and imports have not completely arrived to replenish it.

Rice is a Filipino main staple, which accounts for nearly a tenth of the consumer price index used to compute inflation. A legislative inquiry over rice supply problems is being held.

According to government data, average retail prices of regular-milled rice rose 12.76 percent, while that of well-milled rice went up 9.89 percent. Both were the fastest annual increases for the year.


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