SMC unit plans to import palay

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Ramon S. Ang, President and Chief Operating Officer of SMC — PHILSTAR

By Arra B. Francia, Reporter

THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE unit of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) 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.

“When the government passes the rice tariffication law, we will get into it quickly to import palay, put up a rice mill. We can bring in rice in bulk,” Mr. Ang told reporters after San Miguel Food and Beverage, Inc.’s (SMFB) special stockholders’ meeting in Mandaluyong City on Wednesday.

“We can offer this to the government. We can help the government, the intention is to help food security of the country and help local farmers and supply consumers with reliable and good quality price at a low price,” he added.

Mr. Ang said the company has the capacity to put up grain mills beside its existing feed mills, citing its facilities in Darong, Davao; Iloilo; Barong, Negros Oriental; Mandaue, Cebu; San Fabian, Pangasinan; Mabini, Batangas; and Sariaya, Quezon.

Asked how much volume of rice can be imported, Mr. Ang said one grain terminal will be able to handle three to four million tons each year.

The executive explained SMFB can import rice from Asian countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand which can readily supply the Philippines with its rice needs.

Since the government will impose tariffs on the imported rice, Mr. Ang said this can be used to subsidize the needs of local farmers.

Mr. Ang’s comments come amid the passage House Bill No. 7735 or the Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act in the House of Representatives last Aug. 14. Under the bill, the National Food Authority will have the sole authority to undertake rice importation, as well as the power to allocate import permits for rice and corn importation.

The Senate also expects to green light the measure before the end of September.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia earlier said the rice tariffication bill will help lower rice prices once the QR is replaced with tariffs.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ang said the San Miguel group has enough financial muscle to finance its P750-billion Bulacan airport project, following comments from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III questioning its subsidiary, San Miguel Holdings Corp. (SMHC)’s ability to push through with the project.

“The historical performance of the company reflects that we are more than capable of handling the project: strong balance sheet, consistent profitability, and sustained growth and liquidity. All these support our expansion and acquisition activities,” Mr. Ang said.

The company said it has already undertaken several big-ticket projects in the past, including the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway, the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, and the Boracay Airport runway extension project.

It also has several on-going projects, such as the Metro Rail Transit Line 7, Skyway Stage 3, and South East Metro Manila Expressway.

“SMC has already undertaken a lot of major projects and have delivered on a number of them so the expertise, know-how, and innovativeness are there. We also work with the best experts and contractors so when the time comes to start construction on the airport, we expect to hit the ground running,” Mr. Ang said.

SMHC looks to complete the Bulacan airport in five to seven years, with P100 billion expected to be spent every year. This matches the level of company’s cash from operating activities on a simple, annualized basis.