SCIENCE SHOULD END THE DEBATE. Circulation pattern in Manila Bay drawn in yellow, extensive research by scientists De las Alas and Sadusta (1985), Villanoy and Martin (1987), De las Alas (1990). The red box indicates site of DENR’s dolomite beach nourishment project. Note that due to the prevailing circulation pattern, this site has a tendency for material dispersion leading to erosion. The design prompted past national environmental officials in collaboration with the local governments of Paranaque and Las Pinas to build the mangrove forests southeast of Manila Bay.

(Part 2: Verifiable science or cosmetics?)

In the preceding part, the head of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) said she believes Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda may have been misinformed about the service the institute has been rendering for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In further response to Undersecretary Benny Antiporda’s claim that the UP scientists were “bayaran” (paid hacks), Dr. Laura David clarified that what her institute has with the government agency was a service contract and not a consultancy, which means that only expenses are covered by their agreement and not service fees.

David, however said that despite the faux pas by Antiporda, she said the institute wants to maintain good relations with DENR.

Ayaw po naming masira ang aming relationship na matagal na sa DENR. We really think it’s just a misunderstanding on his part… Hindi lang niya alam yung mga kontrata, and I think we can clear this out,” she said. (We don’t want to destroy our relationship with DENR, which has been established for a long time already… He may just not be familiar with the contracts.)

In my honest opinion

In my honest opinion, Madam, I beg to disagree.

I cannot let this pass while dolomites go hiding under the gray sand or are uselessly eroded. We are talking about tens, maybe hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money here.

This is not just between your job and his job. We are not merely dealing with a simple case of lack of information here.

You are dealing here with hubris of the worst kind, and the force of arrogance which can revive the kind of impunity that we had seen from 1986 to 2016, thirty years of Aquino-the-mother to Aquino-the-son’s brand of malgovernance and covering up incompetence by throwing lies, argumentum ad hominems and ad boculums at government critics.

Even his public apology is not enough and the same goes for your acceptance of his public apology. His words are good for nothing.

Benny Antiporda is a bad weed that must be severed and burned, and that personal response of mine is motivated by nothing but righteous indignation. His ilk and kind cannot be given any iota of public trust as he occupies a public office.

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.”

But is Antiporda decent enough to resign? No, he said he would leave his post if President Rodrigo Duterte says he should. Why should he when he receives a handsome package as undersecretary even if he behaves like an uncouth redneck?

Isn’t this more or less his annual compensation package?

Basic Salary                   2,102,208

Incentives                         395,368

Allowances                       248,000

Discretionary                   180,000

Honorarium                        24,000

Total                              2,949,576

When civil society asks him to resign for badmouthing the UP scientists, he forgot that he himself is a “bayaran” coming from the “buwis” of the people. Antiporda is a salaried employee of the Filipino people through the government.

With all due respects, this is why I was disappointed with the Duterte’s earlier affirmation of the president of his men, including Secretary Roy Cimatu and Usec Benny Antiporda, brushing aside criticisms about the dolomite project. I must be generous, however, to give the President benefit of the doubt because of his immense powers and discretion, given the actuality of a national emergency.

As the father of the nation, he knows the road to hell is peppered with good intentions. But Duterte is no fool and as he listens to law, so he must be more sensitive to science, which is empirical than law.

As the president had spoken, this idiot undersecretary should have stayed mum and kept his peace, afterall the public is forgiving when it comes to Digong.

Antiporda should have just hoped against a redux of Typhoon Pedring that hit that precise area in 2011, happening again.

But no, he continued to quack like a duck, irresponsibly not aware that his behavior can make Duterte look like a lameduck even with a 91% approval and trust rating because that is not a performance rating.

Roy Cimatu made a mistake making him spokesman for his department just because he knows how to run tabloids and is a good at floor managing nightclubs. The secretary worsened his mistake by putting him in-charge of solid waste management and local government concerns.

His glib tongue cannot serve national interest. Now that what remains of Duterte’s term is less than two years, the least the President needs is a bull in a china shop.

Talking science and technology

By the way, I first noticed that Antiporda had no scientific hair in his body when he debated with me in a kapihan more than a year ago, that the land fill that will go into the Bulacan Airport and Aerocity project was not reclamation but land development.

Pray tell me, what’s the difference between a land fill for a reclamation and landfill for land development, especially when what is involved are about 2,500 hectares of submerged wetlands?  So let listen and talk to the true experts.

UP-MSI warned that the use of the controversial dolomite sand— a project in line with the bay’s rehabilitation program — may pose possible health risks and threats to the marine environment.

The institute explained that dolomite sand grains are also expected to erode, given the conditions in coastal parts of Metro Manila during storm seasons. It said that even with a presence of a breakwater, or an artificial structure built for protection from waves, elevated seas and huge waves brought by weather disturbances can still penetrate the baywalk.

“Sea level rise in our tropical seas yield the highest rates in the world, about three to four times more than the global average of 3.3 mm per year,” the UP MSI said.

Manila Bay Walk on September 27, 2011 on the onslaught of Typhoon Pedring, with waves splashing almost double the coconut trees. Photo contributed by Marian Pastor Roces

“Beach nourishment projects are not one-shot deals, especially for continuously eroding shorelines… Hence, continuously replacing the sand will be expensive and will not contribute to improving water quality in the Bay,” the institute added.

The institute noted that erosion threat and poor water quality are the two major problems Manila Bay is currently facing and neither are addressed by the dolomites.

Aside from the environmental impact, the UP MSI said that the finer particles of dolomite can be “problematic”— with prolonged dust inhalation seen to cause chronic health effects to the public. These risks include discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, and coughing.

What has become curious is with environmental advocates strongly opposing the ₱389-million beautification project, the government assured the program was thoroughly reviewed before implementation. So how come this substantial piece of information, which could have been pivotal, was never considered?

The UP MSI stressed that there should be “no shortcuts” in the rehabilitation program for Manila Bay, adding that the aesthetic initiative is — at most— a “beautification effort that is costly and temporary.”

“The clean-up of Manila Bay will be a long and arduous task. It must be a concerted effort by everyone living in its watersheds and those using the bay,” it said. “These are achieved with government interventions, social and community behavioral change, and legislations and policy guidelines implemented.”

In the next part, we will discuss some corruption aspects of this issue, and also a possible case build-up for a Writ of Kalikasan, all because of crushed dolomites.

(To be continued)

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