'We stand by science,' UP MSI stresses in parrying DENR exec's 'bayaran' rant
This undated photo shows the overlaying of crushed dolomites on the shore of Manila Bay.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
'We stand by science,' UP MSI stresses in parrying DENR exec's 'bayaran' rant
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - October 15, 2020 - 9:49am

MANILA, Philippines — The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute said the amount paid by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources—far from the alleged “half a billion pesos”— was used for collaborative projects in the past 10 years when the agency needed the institution's services.

Its director also stressed that informing the public, about scientists' views on government projects related to their field, is part of the university’s mandates.

"Scientists stand by science. Whatever they learned, studied, they share it to the public. It is part of their job, their mandate as scientists and being part of the university. As part of the university, it is our mandate to share what we know," Dr. Laura David, UP MSI director, told ANC’s "Headstart" Thursday.

UP MSI issued a statement early Thursday after DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda accused the institution of charging the department some P500 million in consultation fees and calling scientists from the state university “bayaran” who have no right to criticize the Manila Bay beach nourishment project.

"Specifically, the correct amount is P364,073,909.40 total for the last decade, spanning ten collaborative projects between the UPMSI and the DENR as well as co-sponsorship support for a scientific symposium," the institution said.

"This is hardly the half a billion the undersecretary has been claiming. It is simply the cost of the collaborative projects for which the DENR had the need for the expertise of the UPMSI,” it added.

Antiporda: We pay you, why criticize in public?

Antiporda on Thursday apologized to UP.

"It’s not intended to destroy the good name of the university itself but this is just to send the message to UP MSI that we’re partners here," he said of his "bayaran" accusation.

But he insisted that UP marine scientists, being partners of the government, should have reached out to the department first to air their comments.

"Personally, we are partners. Along the way, you saw something that you said was wrong. What we’re expecting is for you to call us, text us or write a letter to the secretary telling us what we need to do. But sad to say, that did not happen. It went straight to the media destroying the good name of DENR," Antiporda said.

UP MSI uploaded the statement on the use of dolomite grains on its website and posted on its social media accounts.

"We are partners. We pay you. We are your clients. Why did you do this?" he went on.

But, David, said in the same ANC interview that "we’re not consultants."

"There is a contract of service that is written between DENR and the University of the Philippines," she said, adding that Antiporda's rant was likely the result of a misunderstanding.

"I think Undersecretary Antiporda is just not familiar with the service contract. I think once he knows that’s the case, that we’re not consultants and in fact all of this went back to the public, I think he’ll understand that he was amiss at saying that UP is 'bayaran.'"

Funding paid for field work, studies

UP MSI on Wednesday, and earlier in the week explained that the amount was used to support projects tasked with nationwide standardized assessments of National Integrated Protected Areas Systems sites, enhance capacity for management and rehabilitation of marine ecosystems and strengthen the understanding of the country’s waters from the West Philippine Sea to the Philippine Rise in the Pacific.

The funds covered the use of laboratories, research equipment and facilities, field works and support to research assistance, and supported the capacity building of national government agencies and higher education institutions personnel.

It reiterated that the costs of scientific research and investigation are typically shouldered by clients requesting UP MSI’s service, explaining it is not a line agency of the government.

UP MSI also said it welcomes a potential audit by the Commission on Audit as Antiporda threatened on Wednesday.

"This is only appropriate for any government office or agency, given the understanding that any funding received by the Institute is ultimately channeled into scientific projects meant to protect the Philippines’ marine ecology and to promote the development of the nation—as should be the case for any government office or agency," the institute said.

Scientists buck 'dolomite' beach project

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 institution also said this will not help solve the environmental problems in Manila Bay.

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.

David on Thursday stressed the cleaning the waters of Manila Bay should be the government’s priority.

“The other beautification projects can follow.”

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