DENR wants to settle row over official’s 'bayaran' statement vs UP experts

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2020 06:46 AM

MANILA - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Wednesday it will resolve what it called a “misunderstanding” with experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) over the dumping of dolomite to make an artificial white sand beach in Manila Bay. 

This, after a lawmaker called on the department to apologize publicly over the reaction of DENR Usec. Benny Antiporda on Wednesday to proposals from UP scientists for a more marine-friendly solution to the beautification of the area.

Antiporda said the experts from the UP Marine Science Institute had “no right” to criticize the government project and dubbed them “bayaran” or paid hacks, adding the expert’s input should be given free.

He also added that rains did not wash away the dolomite sand contrary to public criticism, but had only “washed in” the black sand from the bay area.

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The DENR official’s statements became the final focus of deliberations for the agency’s proposed 2021 budget, which were the last to be tackled by the House of Representatives in a marathon session that lasted until early morning.

Aklan 2nd District Rep. Teodorcio Haresco Jr., who stood as sponsor for the DENR budget, replied for Sec. Roy Cimatu that the “misunderstanding” and “mistake” was being addressed.

“According to the department, there was a misunderstanding with UP and it is being resolved,” Haresco said.

“I am sure Sec. Cimatu did not mean the mistake and accepts the wrong with the scientific community, and I have the full personal assurance of Sec. Cimatu they will discuss extensively with the scientific community, especially the University of the Philippines.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate condemned Antiporda’s negative branding of the experts as not merely a misunderstanding, but degrading to them.

“I cannot understand, parang napaka-personal na usapin para kay Usec. Benny Antiporda. Seems he cannot receive constructive criticism,” Zarate said.

“Kung ganun na lang na maturingan ng isang opisyal na mga ‘bayaran’ ang mga siyentista at siyentipiko ay hindi katanggap-tanggap iyan.”

The DENR, however, did not commit to Zarates’ call for an apology.

Zarate added a reprimand for Antiporda was not enough, to which Haresco said Cimatu personally committed to talk to the official and resolve it.

During the budget deliberation, the DENR also cleared that while the total cost for the beautification project is P389 million, only 6% or P28 million went to the dumping of dolomite in the bay.

Meanwhile, it said the over-all funding of P47 billion covers multiple agencies such as the DENR, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority who are working on the coastal clean-up covering both Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

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Praised by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte as tangible proof of government clean-up, the so-called “dolomite white sand” beach has also been panned for being a misplaced priority during the COVID-19 pandemic and for being sourced from mining in Cebu. 

The government said the budget for the beautification project was already in place before the pandemic.