Environment advocates slam DENR undersecretary for demeaning UP scientists

Published October 14, 2020, 9:53 PM

by Chito Chavez

The Kalikasan People’s Network for Environment (Kalikasan PNE) described Wednesday as “uncalled for’’ the comments of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny Antiporda against the scientists of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Biology and Marine Sciences during the inspection at the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

“As a government environmental official, he should always be open to the sound and scientific suggestions of our scientists and marine experts,” said Gia Glarino, research coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

The group noted that Antiporda “lashed out with a demeaning comment that scientists from UP Institute of Biology have no right to criticize the dolomite project and called them “bayaran (paid)”.’’ 

Antiporda’s tirade came after the UP Institute of Biology and Marine Science Institute, both highly respected in their own areas of discipline, offered science-based services and advice to the DENR in rehabilitating Manila Bay.

“We back the suggestion of the UP scientists to the government. They must instead restore mangrove forests and prioritize the improvement of Manila Bay’s water quality. It is sound and appropriate for DENR to center its rehabilitation efforts towards reviving the ecological health of Manila Bay instead of mere beautification,” Glarino noted.

Since September, Kalikasan PNE has asserted that the DENR’s dolomite beautification project poses negative impacts on the bay’s still thriving fisheries and to ecological and public health. 

“The onion-skinned and blubbering DENR Undersecretary could serve the nation better if he will resign from his post and spare us from his cheap shots,” Glarino said.

During the inspection, Antiporda noted that the mangrove have their own places located in “Cavite, Bataan and Baseco area’’ and cannot be put in the middle of the baywalk since ‘it will destroy the landscape’’ and they will not thrive in the area.

He claimed that UP objected to the overlaying of dolomite and instead wanted mangroves to be planted in the baywalk area of Manila Bay.

With the offer of the UP Institute of Biology and Marine Sciences of help, Antiporda said the DENR will gladly accept this “if it is for free.’’

Antiporda claimed to have done his own research showing the DENR paid half a billion pesos from 2016 to 2020 purely for consultation purposes only with no single infrastructure built.

He asserted that the institute should refrain from making criticism since they are paid by the government.

A peeved Antiporda declared this after the UP institute had asked for an audit on the Manila Bay White Sand Project which is a pet project of the DENR.

Turning the tables around, Antiporda asked the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate where the half a million pesos consultation fee paid by the agency from 2016 to 2020 went.

With the “election fever’’ nearing, Antiporda noted that critics are merely out to discredit the government for the Manila Bay White Beach Project.