‘Bayaran kayo’: DENR slams UP scientists critical of Manila Bay dolomite project

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�Bayaran kayo�: DENR slams UP scientists critical of Manila Bay dolomite project
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 spokesperson of the environment department on Wednesday lashed out at experts from the University of the Philippines commenting on the “white sand” beach project along Manila Bay, calling them mercenaries and saying they have no right to air their criticism.

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda claimed Wednesday that the government has paid UP scientists some P500 million since 2016.

“Kalahating bilyon na puro lang consultation, walang infrastructure… Bakit kayo naniningil sa gobyerno matapos kayong pag-aralin ng taumbayan, matapos kayong maging scholar ng taumbayan? Sisipsipin niyo ang dugo ng taumbayan sa dami niyong kinuhang pondo tapos ngayon gumagawa kami ng maganda, kailangan naming magbayad sa inyo?” Antiporda, who is also DENR’s spokesperson, said in a Laging Handa briefing.

(Half a billion for only consultation, no infrastructure. Why are you charging the government after your studies were shouldered by the public? You are sucking the blood of the people with the huge amount of money that you have collected. Now that we’re doing something good, we need to pay you?)

In a statement Tuesday, the UP Marine Science Institute addressed Antiporda’s accusation, saying that the scientific advice and technical inputs it provides are free of charge but laboratory tests and research are not.

"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.

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

Limited funds

Antiporda even said that experts from the country’s premier state university have no right to criticize the government project because, according to him, they are “bayaran.” He even called on the Commission on Audit to conduct an audit on UP, particularly on UP MSI.

He also claimed, without presenting evidence, that there is an attempt to discredit government’s efforts because of the next election, which is set for two years from now.

Antiporda earlier remarked that “every time we consult them, we pay them so much money and people don’t know that.”

UP MSI 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.

DENR spox vs UP scientists

Antiporda’s ire at UP scientists, particularly those at the UP MSI, stemmed from its statement on September 30 that overlaying a small portion of Manila Bay’s shoreline with crushed dolomite rocks is a “beautification effort that is costly and temporary.”

The UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology also issued a statement that the beach nourishment project will be “environmentally damaging” in the long run.

The UP Institute of Biology, meanwhile, said last week that “science-based” programs such as planting of mangroves should be implemented as it offered its services to the DENR.

"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 UP MSI said.

Black sand

Antiporda also said that the crushed dolomite rocks laid over a stretch of the Manila Bay baywalk was not washed out but was covered by black sand.

“What happened is ‘wash in.’ The black sand covered the white dolomite,” he said in Filipino.

The DENR official added that the beach nourishment area needs to be maintained but this has yet to happen since the stretch of Manila Bay shoreline that is undergoing makeover is “still under the jurisdiction” of the contractor.

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