The Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) vowed to conduct a “thorough” inquiry into the planned construction of a Nickelodeon theme park in Coron, Palawan.
In a statement on Thursday, June 8, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said he has ordered the DENR bureaus on Biodiversity Management, Environmental Management, and the Region IV-B office, together with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, to “undertake an inquiry into this proposed plan.”
He said they will also be in close coordination with the Department of Tourism (DOT), the local government units, the Tagbanua tribe and their council of elders, and other key stakeholders.
“We shall conduct a thorough inquiry regarding the proposed project to ensure that ecological, social, economic and human interests are factored in into the project’s evaluation once received,” Cimatu said.
“So that at the outset we can ensure that we continue to conserve and protect this bastion of coastal biodiversity in Palawan,” he added.
Despite vehement opposition from environmental advocates, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo announced in a recent television interview that the project will still push through.
Last January, Nickelodeon’s parent company Viacom, in partnership with Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc., announced its plan to develop in Coron an “undersea development showcasing the area’s marine life that would give fans a chance to ‘interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love.’”
The developers, however, was quick to clarify that the project is not an underwater theme park but rather, a land-based “resort and attraction” designed as “an undersea attraction with an ocean conservation focus.”
Teo also affirmed that the park developers assured her they would “preserve the environment,” and that the project will not damage the corals.
In a separate statement, the Tourism chief, likewise, clarified that only the DENR has the authority to issue permits for the construction of the park.
“Syempre at the end of the day, hindi naman kami yung mag-i-issue ng permit, it’s DENR and the local government unit (Of course at the end of the day, it is not the DOT who will issue the permit but it’s the DENR and the local government unit),” Teo said.
She went on to say, “DOT does not issue permits. We are only here to sell the destination once it is ready…to promote the destination. If it has complied with everything, I’m sure bibigyan ng permit ‘yan (I’m sure they’ll be given permit) and we will sell the destination definitely.”
But according to Cimatu, the DENR “at all levels…has not yet received any formal communication” about the planned construction of any theme park in Coron.
“We are, however, trying to find out the specifics of this supposed project even as we await the formal receipt of the said proposal,” Cimatu added.
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