UP scientists to DENR exec: Expert advice is free, lab work and research need funding

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
UP scientists to DENR exec: Expert advice is free, lab work and research need funding
In this September 18, 2020 photo, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda places crushed dolomite sand in an aquarium with fish to prove that the recent fishkill in Baseco is not connected to the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
The STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute on Tuesday stressed that it is committed to collaborating with government agencies and the private sector after an environment department official remarked on UP scientists allegedly being paid millions.

In a statement, UP MSI said that the institution provides "scientific advice and technical inputs of its experts for free, in accordance with UP’s mandate as a national university."

It issued the clarification days after Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said that the department is open to get advice from UP MSI’s experts as long as the consultation will be free.

"We are seeking for your immediate assistance on this matter. But if it needs a big amount of money, the funds of the people, I’m sorry but our experts are enough," Antiporda, who also serves as DENR’s spokesperson, said.

He added that "every time we consult them, we pay them so much money and people don’t know that."

Antiporda made the remarks in reaction to the UP marine scientists’ statement that crushed dolomite sand will not help solve Manila Bay’s environmental problems.

Dr. Laura David, UP MSI director, said the institution has had collaborations with DENR and that it recognizes the agency's expertise in various fields.

Expertise and advice are free, lab tests and research are not

"UP MSI affirms its continued commitment to make available to the government the services of its researchers, scientists and experts, including the DENR, as needed to further the country's development," the institution said.

It, however, pointed out that some problems and questions cannot be addressed without conducting laboratory experiments or research in the field.

"The costs of scientific research and investigation, from the use of laboratories and research equipment and facilities, to support for research assistants, should be, as they actually are shouldered by the clients," UP MSI said, explaining it is not a line agency of the government.

It also said that its internal Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses funds are limited to maintaining its laboratory facilities and field equipment in Diliman and the Bolinao Marine Laboratory in Pangasinan.

"Recognizing the need and the limited funds available, the University was given General Appropriations Act funding for the first time in 46 years so that UP MSI could conduct necessary marine scientific research in Philippine waters," David said.

"Hence, for as long as the science inquiries of the national government agencies fall within planned marine scientific research, only minimal additional funding will be needed,” she added.

‘Costly effort’

In a statement issued on September 30, the UP MSI said that overlaying a small portion of Manila Bay’s shoreline with crushed dolomite rocks is a “beautification effort that is costly and temporary.”

“There are no shortcuts to a cleaner environment. The use of crushed dolomite sand will not help solve the environmental problems in Manila Bay,” it said.

The institution pointed out that dolomite sand grains will erode during storms and that the addition of crush dolomite rocks will not solve the acidification happening in Manila Bay

To rehabilitate Manila Bay, UP MSI suggested infrastructure infusion for wastewater treatment plants, transfer of informal settlers and massive reforestation of the watershed.

“The clean-up of Manila Bay will be a long and arduous task. It must be a concerted effort by everyone living in its watersheds and those using the bay,” it said.

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