The local government of Busuanga and Coron said no one approached them to discuss the proposed Nickelodeon underwater theme park.
In an interview with GMA News Online, Busuanga Mayor Elizabeth Cervantes said at first, they were not aware that Nickelodeon would be putting up an underwater theme park in Coron.
She said it was only through the news that they have learned about it.
“Actually, we only knew it outside. Here in the local, Busuanga and Coron, no one came here to communicate with the LGU [local government unit],” Elizabeth Cervantes said.
Cervantes also said they should have considered first if the community would accept the proposed underwater theme park. But even if someone communicated it to them, residents at Busuanga and Coron are reportedly “not in favor of the plan.”
“When it comes to community acceptance, their opinion seems to be negative. Though they have not gone here and it was not yet introduced, in their own opinion, they do not need it,” she said.
TechnoChops reached out to the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Palawan and to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for comments. They are yet to reply.
Nickelodeon first announced their intention to build an underwater theme park in Coron early this year. Ron Johnson, executive vice president with Viacom International Media Networks, which owns Nickelodeon, sent a statement in an email to AFP, saying the park in Palawan would be a part of the 400-hectare undersea development.
They wanted fans of “SpongeBob Square Pants” and “Dora the Explorer” to “interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love.” They did not say if Palawan was their first choice, but they chose the Philippine island because it has one of the “most beautiful beaches in the world today.”
Palawan has repeatedly garnered prestigious awards by Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, and the National Geographic Traveler. In July this year, Palawan was voted the “world’s best island” by readers of Travel + Leisure.
On top of the awards, the island also hosts two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
Nickelodeon is aiming to open the underwater theme park in 2020. It will feature world-class restaurants and lounges six meters (20 feet) below sea level. They assured that the ocean would be protected.
However, Vince Cinches of Greenpeace Southeast Asia expressed alarm about the plan. According to him, a 400-hectare theme park “will not promote environmental protection by building those structures.”
“Why build a viewing deck when you have the whole paradise to enjoy,” Vince Cinches said.
An online campaign was made in January 2017 against the proposed underwater park. Called #CoronIsNotBikiniBottom, the complaints asked Nickelodeon to trash their plan of a 400-hectare underwater theme park.
“Contrary to the press statement that the underwater theme park would ‘advocate ocean protection,’ it will accomplish the exact opposite. By building artificial structures, you will undeniably damage and disrupt Palawan’s marine ecosystems — our Last 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,” Anna Oposa, the author of the campaign said. “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 life is fascinating, entertaining, and educational on its own.”