DENR exec apologizes to UP over controversial ‘bayaran’ remark

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 15)— Environment Undersecretary and Spokesperson Benny Antiporda on Thursday apologized to the University of the Philippines over his controversial remarks against its experts, whom he labeled as mercenaries or “bayaran.”

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Antiporda admitted he got “carried away” during Wednesday’s Laging Handa briefing, where he slammed UP scientists for criticizing the government’s Manila Bay beach nourishment program, accusing them of making money from consultation services.

“Let me start this statement with an apology to UP as a whole,” Antiporda said in an interview with The Source. “I’m emotionally carried away yesterday. I don’t think it’s fair for the UP people, who are really working hard for our countrymen.”

However, Antiporda noted that the UP Marine Science Institute— a longtime partner of the agency— could have directly forwarded their suggestions and criticisms instead of publicly releasing these comments.

May pinaghuhugutan lang po tayo (we have a reason), when it comes to the issue of the Marine Science Institute,” Antiporda said.

“This is not to destroy the good name of the University of the Philippines. But this is to send a strong message, telling them na partners po tayo (we are partners). This couldn’t have happened kung kayo po’y nakipag-communicate sa amin nang maayos, kung hindi niyo idinaan sa media (if you just communicated with us properly instead of going straight to the media)," he added.

The UP MSI, in a statement published late September on its website, said that the dolomite project in Manila Bay won’t help solve the environmental problems in the area, and may even pose health risks and threats to the marine environment.

The UP Diliman Institute of Biology has also expressed willingness to assist the agency in implementing a science-based rehabilitation program for the bay along Roxas Boulevard.

But Antiporda countered that authorities would only accept such offer if it was for free, claiming that the government has already paid half a billion pesos for consultation services of the state university.

In response to Antiporda’s remarks, the UP MSI clarified that it has received a total of ₱364 million spanning 10 collaborative projects with DENR over the last decade.

‘Science open to criticisms’

UP MSI Director Dr. Laura David, for her part, noted there was no bad blood on the part of the academe amid what she called a “miscommunication.”

“Science is always open to criticism. So when we present our data, we allow people to criticize us, so that we can better ourself,” David said in the same program.

“We did not take this personally. We took it professionally… Wala pong (there’s no) bad blood,” she added.

Some netizens and an academic organization from the state university have called for Antiporda's resignation following this controversy, but the DENR official stressed he will step only down if President Rodrigo Duterte tells him to.

RELATED: Antiporda to critics calling for his resignation: Write a complaint to Duterte