No bad blood: DENR's Antiporda apologizes over 'bayaran' remark vs UP scientists

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2020 09:36 AM | Updated as of Oct 15 2020 11:29 AM

A view of the Manila Bay ‘white sand’ project along baywalk on October 8, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News​

MANILA (UPDATE) - There is "no bad blood" between the UP Marine Science Institute and environment department, a UP MSI official said Thursday, after Undersecretary Benny Antiporda apologized for calling the university's scientists "bayaran" or paid hacks.

Antiporda earlier said he would not apologize to the UP MSI for criticizing the agency publicly instead of directly approaching it for using crushed dolomite in Manila Bay.

However, he took back his statement and gave his apology in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

"I would like to start my statement with an apology to the UP as a whole. It is 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 told ANC's Headstart.

"Again I apologize because talagang natangay po ako ng emotions ko kahapon dahil medyo masakit po, hindi po ako pulitikong tao kaya ganun."

(Again I apologize because I was taken by emotions yesterday because their criticism hurt, I'm not a political person.)

UP MSI director Laura David said she accepts Antiporda's apology as it was only a "misunderstanding and miscommunication."

"Definitely, wala naman pong (there's no) bad blood between DENR and UP. From the very start I knew this was just a misunderstanding and miscommunication," she said in the same ANC interview.

David said she was not angry with Antiporda's statement calling UP "bayaran."

"I’m a teacher at heart and a scientist to the core and it’s part of science to actually be criticized so it’s okay with us to be criticized. The important thing is for communication to continue and we’ve had decades of work with DENR and we’d love to continue the same for years to come," she said.

FREE CONSULT?

Antiporda said the UP MSI should have flagged the DENR first before releasing their findings on dolomite in Manila Bay.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources would have consulted UP MSI first if it gave its findings for free as the agency has spent "hundreds of millions" in its previous projects with the research institute, he added.

"Magpartner tayo eh, nagbabayad kami sa inyo, kliyente niyo kami, bakit niyo ginagawa to?" he said.

(We're partners, we pay you, we're your client. Why are you doing this to us?)

"Kasi parang ang pumasok sa isip ng tao nagooffer ang UP libre kaagad, walang gastos 'yung research and everything. Pinaalam lang po natin sa taumbayan nagbabayad po kami."

(People thought UP was offering free service, like research does not cost anything. We just let the public know that we pay them.)

The UP MSI will give its services for free if data is already available, David said.

"For as long as we already have the data that is needed in order to answer the questions then yes the expertise and expert opinions are free. It’s only when we still have to conduct research that there will have to be money from the client in order to support this research," she said.

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SUSTAINABLE?

David urged the DENR to prioritize decreasing Manila Bay's coliform level to ensure the cleanliness of the bay.

"Dapat balikan ang mandamus, linisin ang tubig, i-prioritize 'yun. Eventually gagamitin siya ng tao, kailangan yung tubig na katapat ay malinis," she said.

(We should go back to the mandamus and prioritize cleaning the water. Eventually this will be used, its water should be clean.)

"Kailangan talaga pinapaghandaan ang (We should be prepared for) maintenance. You cannot just buy a car and not be able to maintain it. I think it’s just a change in frame of mind on how we prepare for projects. It cannot be short-term, there has to be a sustainable plan."

Antiporda said the agency for now is leaving plans of dolomite maintenance to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which is currently handling the project, and its service contractor.

"After completion, that’s the time we’ll come up with information on the maintenance, how we will do it and everything pag nagturnover na po (once it's turned over). Di malalaman gano kalaki ang trabaho (the project is not that big)," he said.

"Basically minimal po siya, 'yun po ang sinigurado ng DPWH dahil linis lang po ang katapat nito at 'yung sinasabing washing out ay wala pong ganoong situation. If it’s a storm surge talaga, nobody can predict what will happen."

(DPWH said it's basically minimal because we will just clean it up and there's no washing out as some claimed.)

Should a supertyphoon wash out the dolomite, David said it would just be "lessons learned."

"We move forward, we no longer try to upkeep it if gets washed out by a supertyphoon because we do know super typhoons happen," she said.