Robredo defends UP experts from DENR official's 'bayaran' remark

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 18) — For Vice President Leni Robredo, the accusations of Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda against experts from the University of the Philippines of being mercenaries or “bayaran” was "totally undeserved and uncalled for."

In her radio show on Sunday, Robredo defended the UP Marine Science Institute — a longtime partner of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources — against Antiporda's controversial remarks, following its recommendations on Manila Bay's rehabilitation.

"Hindi dine-deserve ng grupo yung pambabastos na ginawa sa kanila. Sila, ginagawa lang yung trabaho nila," Robredo said.

[Translation: The group did not deserve such abuse that they got from him. They were only doing their job.]

"Alam natin kung gaano kahalaga yung mga rekomendasyon ng mga scientists, mga taong eksperto sa field na iyan. Again, totally undeserved ng UP MSI department yung accusation," she said.

[Translation: We all know how important are the recommendations of scientists, actual experts in that field. Again, UP MSI department totally did not deserve those accusations.]

The UP MSI earlier noted 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 institute also refuted Antiporda's earlier claim that it has been receiving "half a billion" worth of consultation fees from the agency.

Netizens and various academic organizations eventually called for Antiporda's resignation, citing his "ill-fitting background" for the job, and for disregarding the opinions of scientists.

Aside from his "bayaran" remark, Antiporda also denied that the crushed dolomite laid over a portion of the Manila Bay coastline — under the government's "white sand" beach project — was washed out. What happened, he said, was that black sand from the sea had covered the beach front.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source last week, Antiporda then made an apology to the whole UP community, but noted that he will resign only if President Rodrigo Duterte says so.