Criticism, quit calls wash in after DENR exec's 'bayaran' rant vs UP scientists

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Criticism, quit calls wash in after DENR exec's 'bayaran' rant vs UP scientists
In this Oct. 9, 2020 photo, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda inspects the bay’s shoreline in Manila, covered with artificial white sand.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The Geographic Society of the University of the Philippines called on Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Benny Antiporda to resign over his rant against scientists from the state university.

UP GeogSoc said Antiporda’s “bayaran” remark is unacceptable for a government official, especially for someone who works in the environment department, which is mandated to make science-based decisions.

"Considering your-ill fitting background for the job as well as your disregard for the opinions of other Filipino scientists, we call on you to formally retract your statements against the [UP Marine Science Institute] and to resign from your position as undersecretary, as both a form of accountability and to give way for other, better qualified candidates to work in the department," UP GeogSoc, an organization of undegraduate students, said.

"The DENR needs a spokesperson who, instead of antagonizing homegrown scientists, articulately expresses and explains the department’s goals and policies. Moreover this country deserves a DENR undersecretary who is credible, responsive, and committed to protecting, conserving, and managing our environment and natural resources," it said.

Before being appointed to government, Antiporda was publisher of Remate and is a former president of the National Press Club.

Fishers group Pamalakaya said Antiporda should immediately tender a resignation “over incompetence and arrogance” if he is unable to stand criticism.

Anti-science sentiment

The DENR spokesperson accused UP MSI on Wednesday of charging the agency some “half a billion pesos” in consultation fees after it issued a statement that overlaying a small portion of Manila Bay’s shoreline with crushed dolomite rocks will not help solve the bay’s environmental problems.

He also called UP scientists "bayaran" who have no right to criticize the government.

"UP scientists work tirelessly for the benefit of Filipino society, despite being underfunded, yet you, Usec. Antiporda, have seen it fit to attack not only the MSI but the valuable contribution of the scientific work of the Filipino academe," UP GeogSoc said.

Dr. Laura David, UP MSI director, stressed in an interview on ANC Thursday that scientists stand by science and it is their mandate to “share what we know” to the public.

UP MSI, in a separate statement, the amount paid by DENR far from alleged “half a billion pesos” were used to fund 10 collaborative projects and co-sponsorship for a scientific symposium. The amount covered the use of laboratories, research equipment, field works and support to research assistants.

UP GeogSoc said Antiporda’s anti-science sentiment is disappointing because statements from institutes are not attacks but an “effort to present the truth and alternatives for better policy-making decisions.”


In an interview on ANC's “Headstart” Thursday, Antiporda apologized to UP.

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

"We are partners. We pay you. We are your clients. Why did you do this?" Antiporda said. 

But David said that they are “not consultants,” adding that Antiporda's rant was likely the result of a misunderstanding. 

Antiporda said he will leave his post if President Rodrigo Duterte tells him to resign.

"You can write to the president or you can make a complaint against me. If the president says that I should leave my post, then I will do it," he said in a separate interview on CNN Philippines. 

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