Palace spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday disagreed with Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda’s tagging of University of the Philippines (UP) experts as “bayaran” (sellouts) for their criticism of the Manila Bay rehabilitation project.

“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 of saying I disagree with the statement of Usec. Antiporda,” Roque, a former UP law professor, said in a virtual presser.

On Wednesday, Antiporda said the UP Marine Science Institute had “no right” to rail against the project.

“Ang UP po sa buong pagkaalam ho natin ay libre dapat iyan ano po. Bakit kayo naniningil sa gobyerno, matapos kayong pag-aralin ng taumbayan, matapos kayong maging iskolar ng taumbayan, sisipsipin ninyo ang dugo ng taumbayan sa dami ng kinuha ninyong pondo?” he said in a Laging Handa briefing.

“Tapos ngayon, gumagawa kami ng maganda, kailangang magbayad kami sa inyo, huwag naman ano po. Hindi ninyo karapatang batikusin ito dahil bayaran kayo. Iyon lang po ang masasabi ko sa UP. Uulit-ulitin ko – bayaran kayo!” he added.

Antiporda claimed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has spent about P500 million for consultations with UP since 2016.

He also said he would only accept help “as long as it is for free.”

The UP Marine Science Institute has refuted Antiporda’s claim and said it only received P364,073,909.40 in the past decade from DENR.

Antiporda apologized to UP on Thursday.

“Let me start this statement with an apology to UP as a whole. I’m emotionally carried away yesterday. I don’t think it’s fair for the UP people, who are really working hard for our countrymen,” Antiporda said in an interview over CNN Philippines’ The Source.

The Geographic Society of the University of the Philippines has called for Antiporda’s resignation for making “anti-science” comments which is “unacceptable for a government official.” John Ezekiel J. Hirro