A visibly mad Environment Undersecretary Benny Antirporda today attacked the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Biology, saying that they do not have the right to criticize the government’s Manila Bay white sand project.
In today’s Laging Handa (“Always Ready”) press briefing, a fuming Antiporda said without offering proof that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has already paid the Marine Sciences Institute PHP500 million (US$10.86 million) in consultancy fees and that because of this, he expects them to work for free.
“To those commenting [about this project], they should talk to the DENR first before they comment. About their offer that they are ready to help us, as long as it’s for free, we will accept their help. Because based on what I have studied we have paid them half a billion since 2016 up to this year only for consultation. There’s no infrastructure, nothing. We paid half a billion to that UP. From what I know, UP should offer their services for free,” Antiporda said in English and Filipino.
Antiporda also called out UP scientists for saying that dumping crushed dolomite on Manila Bay was “not the best way” to spend taxpayers’ money because it was detrimental to the area’s biodiversity. The scientists have told the DENR that they should have planted mangroves on the shore instead.
The Environment official said that this was not possible because the mangroves “will destroy the landscape. And at the same time, mangroves will not survive in this area.”
Continuing with his diatribe, Antiporda accused the scientists of being “bayaran” (“accepting payments”), a slur that Duterte supporters often hurl at government critics whom they allege are accepting bribes.
“Why are you asking for payment from the government after you were educated by taxpayer’s money? After you became a scholar of the people? You sucked the blood of the people from all the money that you have taken? Now that we’re doing something good [and you criticize us] we have to pay you? No way. You do not have the right to criticize us because you are accepting payments. That’s the only thing I will say about UP. I will keep repeating it, you are accepting money,” Antiporda said.
Critics have said that the taxes used to fund the Manila Bay white sand project, estimated at PHP397 million (US$8 million), should have been used for the Philippines’ coronavirus response instead. However, government officials have said that the rehabilitation of the polluted area has been planned months before the pandemic hit, and the money cannot be used for other projects.
Meanwhile, Antiporda also called out critics for saying that rains have already washed out the dolomite sand, and said that it was just underneath the black sand that waves have brought to the shore. There were about two to three inches of black sand on top of the crushed dolomite, he added.
“Those are all lies [being spread] about the white sand being washed out. What happened was that the black sand was washed in[to the shore] and it went on top of the white dolomite,” he said.
Updated: An older version of this article states that the DENR paid the UP Institute of Biology. It should be the UP Marine Sciences Institute.