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Thursday, June 01, 2017

Nickelodeon And Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Commit To Plans To Develop New Nickelodeon Resort And Attraction In The Philippines

Viacom International Media Networks' (VIMN) global kids brand Nickelodeon and Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc., Asia’s first underwater resort developer, are pushing through with their plan to develop a new Nickelodeon Resort and Attraction in in Western Philippine province of Coron, Palawan, and have personally assured the Department of Tourism (DOT) that the project will not cause irreparable damage to the town’s marine ecosystem, particularly the coral reefs, DOT confirmed Thursday.

Earlier this year, the network behind popular television programming such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer announced it was planning to build an underwater resort and theme park in Palawan which will showcase the marine life in the area and give fans a chance to interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love”, however, the project was criticised by environmental advocates who raised concerns that it would destroy the world-famous marine ecosystem.

"They're going to pursue that. The owner went to us... this year," DOT Secretary Wanda Teo told CNN Philippines' The Source. "They told us, 'We are not going to destroy the corals. The restaurant will be floating, and you will be able to see [the corals]... Of course we know that we will preserve the place.'"

Coral World Park Undersea Resorts was first reported in January to have plans for an underwater theme park in Coron with Nickelodeon's parent company Viacom International Media Networks. The plan drew criticism from environmentalists and citizens, who raised concerns about its effects on the marine ecosystem.

The developer has since clarified that the project is not an underwater theme park but a "resort and attraction... which we are designing as an undersea attraction with an ocean conservation."

LIMESTONE cliffs at Twin Lagoon in Coron Palawan. Coming soon on the island? An underwater theme park. PHOTO BY ANNELLE TAYAO-JUEGO

The developers were also reported to have shared their initial plans with the local government, who first told CNN Philippines that they did not receive an application for the project yet.

She also added that condominium units may also be built on land, but it is not clear if this is from the same developer.

"Actually [there is] a place there where they will be building condominiums. They have already identified the place," she added.

Teo said that it was not her office that directly coordinated with Coral World Park, but she welcomed the development as long as it did not destroy the corals.

Coral World Park has since clarified with CNN Philippines that "no master plan has been revealed to the public" and following international standards, "everything is still in the planning stages."

LGU not notified yet

While Teo confirms Coral World Park's plans, Coron Counselor and Tourism Committee Chairman Michael Sadhwani told CNN Philippines that there has been "no formal communication" given to the local government since their initial meeting.

"We'd like to inform you there has been no formal letter of intent that has been received by the [LGU] of Coron, both [in] legislative and executive [offices]," Sadhwani said.

He surmised that the developer was still coordinating with the national government, and trusted that the local government would still screen the project. Coral World Park would still have to go through the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and the Econ Board, an environmental committee, the councilor added.

"As of today, we can't say if we're pro or against it because we haven't received any documentation," said Sadhwani. "Obviously if they pass the process, walang problema yun [that's no problem]... you have a right to have a business. (If not), obviously, hindi ka makakabukas ng resort [you can't open a resort]."

Sadhwani said he thinks locals will be divided over the issue, but the local government must balance these views.

"The government has to have an equal decision... The government also naman cannot stop progress. It will also add to the economic development of the municipality," said Sadhwani. "They first have to pass all the necessary requirements."

"The DOT is aware of the planned Coral World Park in Coron. From a tourism perspective, the DOT is excited about the idea because this would attract both local and foreign tourists. But with regards to the approval of such a concept, the DOT would properly refer the matter to the appropriate agencies that can evaluate and decide on it," the DOT said.

Such a project would need an environmental clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Teo said Nickelodeon has been talking to the new management of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She said there remains no timeline for now, but there is already the concept. “We have not talked about (construction), but they told us the idea. They showed us the map and everything. It’s very big. And they’re also going to develop that area in the land area condominiums and hotels,” Teo said.

The developer Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. (CWP) earlier denied previous reports that the development would be underwater, and that only 100 hectares have been allocated for the Nickelodeon facility and 30 hectares for the attraction itself.

CWP marketing and communications director Susan Lee said in the statement to it would not be a theme park development.

“There will be no theme park development in Palawan… There has never been any form of communication from our side mentioning a theme park. Our plans are to build a resort and attraction, of which we are designing as an undersea attraction with an ocean conservation focus – this is reflected in the press release with Viacom International Media Networks,” Lee said.

“The only infrastructure in the water is floating and all developments are on land. The ‘undersea themed’ Coral World Park is land based but is designed to meet the international standards required as a global destination especially environment related standards advocating conservation tourism, renewable energy and category 5 proof architecture,” Lee added.

The Department of Tourism (DOT), in a later statement Thursday night, however, said that although it is excited with the said project, it still has to be approved by appropriate agencies.

China eyes theme parks in Masbate, Batangas

Teo also said that Chinese investors were looking into building hotels, casinos, and theme parks in different parts of the Philippines.

"They have already started buying lots to build... a theme park wherein they will have a hotel, resorts, airport-there will be [activities] in that place. Actually, Masbate will boom," said Teo.

She added that Chinese investors are also considering building a theme park in Batangas.

"There are other places they'd like to consider like Palawan, but they're looking for a big area. They're also considering Davao... They're still looking for areas. The investors are there... The money is there," said Teo.

She added they were also looking into building the "Philippine Center," a structure in Intramuros which will house the DOT and attached agencies.

Teo said all deals are still in the works "because we would like to make sure that when we do this, everything is within the law."

With pristine beauty, Coron island in Palawan is known as the country’s last frontier. Palawan is also home to heritage sites the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and the Tubbataha Reef.

Additional sources: ABS-CBN News, Rappler, GMA News Online, Manila Bulletin News.
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