News that Viacom International Media Networks’ (VIMN) global kids brand Nickelodeon and Coral World Park Undersea Resorts are planning to construct a 100-hectare undersea park in Coron, which was met with criticisms by many netizens in social media, came as a shock to many government and non-government organizations in Palawan. Representatives from the provincial government, Coron’s local government unit and the province’s environmental groups said they have been blindsided by the said proposal from Nickelodeon and its partner.
Provincial Information Officer Atty. Gil Acosta Jr., in an interview, said that the provincial government did not have knowledge about the proposed theme park prior to Nickelodeon’s announcement. “As to the Provincial Government of Palawan, wala kaming alam. Wala pong dumarating na proposal sa atin na magtatayo nga raw ng underwater park sa Coron. May mga comments nga sa social media na parang pumayag na ang provincial government. Pero to tell you honestly, wala po kaming knowledge about any plan or proposal tungkol d’yan,” he said.
Mayor Ajerico Barracoso of Coron town also admitted that they were not aware of the said project and only heard of it after news broke over the internet.
“As in wala talaga, nagulat na nga lang kami,” Mayor Barracoso told Palawan News in a phone interview. Coron’s local chief also explained that he still cannot share his opinion on the project until a formal proposal has reached his office. “Kung sakali, matagal pa ‘yan, dadaan pa ‘yan sa public hearing. Titingnan natin kung saan nila ilalagay, makakasira ba ‘yan sa mga corals natin,” Barracoso said.
Meanwhile, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, a multi-sectoral and intergovernmental body mandated to enforce Republic Act 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Palawan (SEP) Act, thru its spokesperson John Vincent Fabello confirmed today that no application for SEP clearance related to the theme park has been submitted to their office.
“Wala pa tayong nare-receive na official communication o application that they are applying for the project. When you apply for that kind of mega project, you need some full-blown documents specificaly Environmental Impact Assessment kung pumapasok sa ancestral domain, kailangan ng FPIC o free prior informed consent from the IPs,” Fabello explained.
Aside from the said government bodies, the NGO group Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), headed by Atty. Gerthie Anda, also expressed disappointment on the said plan.
“Hindi mo na kailangan magtayo ng isang artificial structure underwater. Coron-Busuanga is already fascinating…and educational. Hindi mo na kailangan ng isang zoo d’yan or isang ocean park kasi lumangoy ka lang d’yan, mag-snorkel, mag-dive ka, marami ka nang matututunan d’yan,” Anda said.
According to Anda, ELAC, Save Philippines Seas, Greenpeace and other concerned organizations have already prepared a letter addressed to Paul Moňocoza of Coral World Park Underseas Resort Inc., wherein the group stated their opposition against the proposed underwater park
Save Philippine Seas has also launched an online petition against the planned undersea park. The petition has gathered around 50K signatures in just 14 hours.