Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday he disagrees with the remark made by Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda that experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) have no right to criticize the Manila Bay white beach project.
Roque noted that although Antiporda has since apologized for his statement, assisting the government is part of the UP Charter or Republic Act (RA) 9500.
“UP has a new charter. It is really a partner of government and that is why I had to distance… In fact, I will go to the extent that I disagree with the statement of USec (Undersecretary) Antiporda but he has already apologized for it,” he said in a Palace press briefing.
Under Section 3 of RA 9500, the UP shall “lead as a public service university by providing various forms of community, public, and volunteer service, as well as scholarly and technical assistance to the government, private sector and civil society while maintaining its standards of excellence.”
“Nasa batas po yan na talagang partner natin ang UP national university and, as a professor of 15 years in UP, ginawa din po namin ang katungkulan namin para tulungan ang gobyerno (It is under the law that we are partners with UP as a national university and, as a professor of 15 years in UP, we also did our duty to help the government),” Roque said.
On Wednesday, Antiporda accused UP scientists of being “bayaran” or paid hacks for criticizing the Manila Bay beautification project.
He even called for an audit of the UP Marine Science Institute (MSI) for the funds supposedly given to them by the DENR.
Antiporda’s ire against the UP-MSI stemmed from the latter’s remark that overlaying a small portion of Manila Bay’s shoreline with crushed dolomite rocks is a “beautification effort that is costly and temporary.”
He eventually apologized to the UP scientists, saying he had no intention to “destroy the good name of UP” and was only “carried away by emotions.”
Dr. Laura David, UP-MSI director, accepted the DENR official’s apology.
The UP Geographic Society (UP GeogSoc), meanwhile, has called for Antiporda’s resignation over his “bayaran kayo” remark, calling them “unacceptable for a government official.”
However, Antiporda said he would leave his post if President Rodrigo Duterte says he should.