MANILA - Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said Thursday he will not apologize to experts from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute after calling them "bayaran" (paid hacks) for criticizing the Manila Bay dolomite project.
Speaking to ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Antiporda reiterated that the environment department has paid the UP MSI "hundreds of millions" for previous projects.
"I don’t think it’s fair for us na ganun ang gawin niyo samin being your client. Ang amin po…porke po ba hindi kami nagkonsulta sa inyo, at hindi kami nagbayad eh babatikusin niyo na lang kami?" he said.
(I don't think it's fair to do that to us as your client. Just because we did not consult and pay you, you will criticize us?)
Asked if he would issue an apology to the UP MSI, Antiporda said he does not think he "should be the one to apologize now."
"It’s very simple, we’re leaving the door open for communication but I don’t think kailangan ako mag-apologize now but again di po kami ang nagkamali dito, sila po ang unang nagkamali, sila po ang unang bumatikos samin pero partners kami," he said.
(It’s very simple, we’re leaving the door open for communication but I don’t think I should be the one to apologize now, but again we did not commit any mistake, they committed the first mistake, they criticized us but we're partners.)
As partners, he said UP scientists should have approached the agency first instead of going to the public.
"Since sila po ay partner namin dapat po sana ay rumekta sila sa amin, hindi po 'yung dumaan sila sa media at i-discredit nila ang experts namin dito na graduate din naman karamihan ng UP."
(Since they are our partner, they should have approached us directly, not the media, and they should not have discredited our experts, many of whom are also graduates from UP.)
UP Vice President for public affairs Elena Pernia said the university would communicate with the environment department following Antiporda's "open communication" offer.
She, however, said that UP is a public service institution and a part of its responsibility was to release its findings to the Filipino people.
"Itong public service function na ito ay importanteng mapalabas sa lahat. Ang UP ay pinopondohan ng bayan kaya ang responsibility din namin mapaalam sa bayan kung ano 'yung mga findings of research, particularly findings that are for the good of society," she said.
(This public service function is important to be released to everyone. The UP is funded by government so our responsibility is to let the public know the findings of our research, particularly findings that are for the good of society.)
"Diretso po ba 'yun sa media kapag nilalabas ang research findings kasi ganun din naman ang ginagawa namin kadalasan, kayo naman sa media nakikita niyo 'yun, meron kaming press releases which are really the releases of the research we have conducted."
(Is releasing research findings publicly straight to the media? Because that's what we do. The media sees them and our press releases.)
UP MSI earlier criticized the Manila Bay dolomite beach project, saying dumping dolomite on the beach was a costly, temporary beautification effort.
"The task of cleaning and restoring Manila Bay may be daunting, but it needs to be done for future generations of Filipinos to benefit from its many uses," it said in a statement.
'ONLY PRESIDENT DUTERTE CAN MAKE ME QUIT'
In the interview, the DENR official clarified that he was referring to UP MSI and not the whole UP community when he called them "bayaran" or paid hacks.
"Medyo emotionally natangay po tayo. Again hindi po UP. It is the UP MSI na sinasabi namin dahil partner po namin sila," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(I was taken by my emotions. Again, I was not referring to UP. It is the UP MSI because it is our partner.)
He added it is only President Rodrigo Duterte who can remove him from his post.
"It’s only the President who can tell me na magbitaw ako rito dahil ako po ay in-appoint niya rito. Ginagawa ko lang po ang tungkulin ko," he said.