Wikipedia File photo.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it has taken note of the observations of the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) on the Manila Bay rehabilitation and expressed willingness to get the experts’ services if it will be provided at no cost to the government.

“Our office is open for them and I myself will offer to them one of my tables, at least, be sure that it (consultation) will be free,” DENR Undersecretary and spokesperson Benny Antiporda said in a statement.

He noted that the DENR will be constrained to work with UP-MSI if its experts would demand for high professional fees.

“We are seeking for your immediate assistance on this matter. But if it needs a big amount of money, the funds of the people, I’m sorry but our experts are enough,” Antiporda told UP-MSI.

He pointed out that the DENR already has its own set of experts—marine scientists, biologists and geologists—who are actively involved in the Manila Bay rehabilitation project.

He also noted that DENR Secretary and Manila Bay Task Force chief Roy Cimatu “is not only a soldier and a pilot, but also an engineer.”

Based on the DENR’s experience, Antiporda said it requires a lot money to get the services of UP experts, contrary to public perception that transactions between government agencies are free.

“Every time we consult them (UP experts), we pay them so much money and people don’t know that,” he said.

The UP-MSI released a statement last Sept. 30 enumerating the environmental problems in Manila Bay that need to be addressed, including poor water quality and threat of erosion.

The institution also cited the implications of using crushed dolomite boulders in the bay, among them erosion, ocean acidification, and health problems.

The UP-MSI likewise pointed out that “there are no shortcuts to a cleaner environment,” and “at most, it is a beautification effort that is costly and temporary.”

Antiporda defended that the project is more than just aesthetics as it is a strategy to promote pro-environment behavior among Filipinos, with the white sand inspiring people to be more mindful of their obligation to keep Manila Bay clean.

He also reassured that the funds used for the project will not be put to waste as engineering interventions are being made to prevent the artificial white sand from being washed away.