"We will not allow the importation of palay (unhusked rice) because it could pose danger to our rice industry. It could also bring in pests and diseases," said Piñol, in a press briefing on Tuesday.
The Food and Beverage unit of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) earlier said it plans to import unmilled rice should the government pass a law lifting quantitative restrictions (QR) on the volume of rice imports annually.
SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang said the company can undertake rice importation to help ensure food security and to assist local farmers.
“We will help by importing. We have grain terminals where we can build extra silos… We will be able to help in the food security,” said Ang on the sidelines of the SMC stockholders’ meeting.
He said these silos would allow for the proper storage of grains so that SMC can import rice by bulk and not just by sacks, after which the commodity can be stored for as long as two years.
Piñol, however, noted that the Rice Tariffication Law does not allow the importation of palay.
"It is only rice in milled form," he stressed, effectively bucking the tycoon's ambitious plans.
Piñol said that the DA still reserves the right to revoke importation of unmilled rice, particularly if it concerns the safety of the country's agriculture sector.
"We still reserve the right, we still hold the power to determine whether it is safe for Philippine agriculture or not, because nobody can assure us na yung mga unhulled rice na papasok dito ay walang nakakabit na sakit," he said.