MANILA - Businessmen and Manila City government officials have allayed fears of so-called "fake rice" entering the city, as they vowed to prevent the smuggling of fake and contaminated food products.
Manila Vice Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso assured residents of Manila as well as those living throughout Luzon and Visayas that not a single grain of fake rice has entered warehouses and markets in these areas.
"We were assured by rice millers, distributors and businessmen that in Luzon and parts of Visayas, they can say that there has been no fake or plastic rice," Domagoso told reporters after leading a dialogue between Manila City government officials and businessmen late on Tuesday.
During the dialogue held in Binondo, Domagoso, together with Manila third district Councilor Bernardito Ang, quizzed businessmen involved in the rice trade about the proliferation of the so-called fake rice, which has reportedly entered Davao.
James Magbanua, president of the National Grains Retailers Confederation of the Philippines, said that it is, in fact, more expensive to mill fake rice compared to the real thing.
"We haven't been producing even a single grain of fake rice. Nobody in their right mind would mill fake rice, because it takes P80 to produce a kilo of it, compared to P40 per kilo for real rice," Magbanua said during the dialogue.
Meanwhile, the president of the Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations, Jojie Co, have pledged that there no manufacturers of fake rice among their ranks.
"In my 50 years in the industry, I haven't seen fake rice. Our rice mills grind rice, but they do not manufacture fake rice," he said.
Meanwhile, Ang said that he received complaints from businesses in his district of raids by supposed members of the police and of the National Food Authority to check for fake rice.
"The businesses feel harassed, and their stock of rice gets depleted because of these supposed inspectors' request for samples," Ang said.
Domagoso also sought the businesses' co-operation in the issue, saying that the Manila City government would address their concerns.
"We will continue to inspect warehouses with rice in their stock and we will be looking out for fake rice. Meanwhile, If you see unscrupulous people posing as inspectors and doing the rounds, call us at City Hall. We will apprehend them unless they are authorised by the national government," Domagoso said.
Earlier, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police said their initial findings on rice samples taken from Davao City - where the first reports of fake rice surfaced - showed that the rice was not fake or made of synthetic plastic. Instead, they found traces of chemicals used in plastic on the grains and they theorized that the rice might have been contaminated with chemicals from the plastic packaging.