THE Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that it will not allow the United States television network Nickelodeon to construct an underwater theme park in Palawan.
“I will never allow the corals to be harmed, that’s what we have, that’s our wealth. You can’t kill the corals for a theme park, no way,” Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said on Wednesday, January 11.
In a press statement early this week, Nickelodeon’s parent company Viacom, in partnership with Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc., announced its plan to develop a 100-hectare undersea attraction and resort in Coron, Palawan.
The undersea park, according to Viacom, will feature Nickelodeon’s iconic properties like ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ and ‘Dora the Explorer.’
While the DENR said it has not received any application from Nickelodeon, Lopez stressed that she will “not allow anything that will damage the environment.”
“No amount of money is worth the well being of our farmers and fishermen,” Lopez added.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) said that it also hasn’t received any proposals for the underwater project.
“We don’t even know. We are not aware if they are building it. Hindi namin alam sa DOT (We were not aware). Pero I’m sure Secretary [Wanda Teo] would like us to look. Diving nga ang gusto nating i-promote dito eh (DOT actually wants to promote diving). And Coron is already beautiful as it is,” Tourism Undersecretary Kat De Castro told DZMM on Wednesday.
The Nickelodeon underwater park is expected to open in 2020. But contrary to Viacom’s statement that the development will “advocate ocean protection,” different environment groups said that the park would destroy Palawan’s marine ecosystem instead.
“It’s sad and alarming because a theme park that big will not promote environmental protection by building those structures,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia told AFP. “Why build a viewing deck when you have the whole paradise to enjoy?”
A signature campaign, “No to Nickelodeon’s Underwater Theme Park in Palawan,” was also launched online to urge the network and the government to cancel its construction plan.
“For a channel that targets children, Nickelodeon is setting a terrible example to the younger generation by taking away their right to enjoy our natural resources. We don’t need an underwater theme park — our underwater like is fascinating, entertaining, and educational on its own,” the petition read.
The campaign, authored by Anna Oposa, was posted on Bataris.org.ph and has reached 150,000 signatures as of Wednesday.
The petition argued the the artificial structures will “undeniably damage and disrupt” the Philippines’ “last ecological frontier.”
“If you are sincere and serious about marine conservation, the money allocated for the underwater theme park should be invested in marine protected areas, sustainable livelihoods for local communities, and environmental education programs,” it further read.