MANILA (Philippines): American children’s television network Nickelodeon has announced it will eventually build an underwater resort and amusement park with an island the Philippines’ last ecological frontier, alarming environmentalists.
The firm behind SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer said the park on Palawan island would be a part of a 400-hectare (1,000-acre) undersea development showcasing the area’s marine life that could give fans to be able to “interact with the company as well as iconic characters they love”.
Palawan was chosen with the development as it “is known to have an array of beautiful beaches today,” Ron Johnson, a professional second in command with Viacom International Media Networks, which owns Nickelodeon, said from a statement emailed to AFP on Tuesday.
Viacom’s initial statement announcing the work on Monday said the place would open in 2020 and have restaurants and lounges six metres (20 feet) below sea level.
The development would “advocate ocean protection”, the statement said.
But environmental group Greenpeace claimed it would destroy the area’s world-famous marine ecosystem.
“It’s sad and alarming must be theme park that big won\’t promote environmental protection because they build those structures,” Vince Cinches of Greenpeace Southeast Asia told AFP.
“Why create a viewing deck if you have the whole paradise to have?”
Conservation groups call Palawan “the final frontier” because of its pristine coastlines and forests, which are among the list of oldest and many diverse in Southeast Asia.
Palawan hosts two Unesco World Heritage-listed sites, a subterranean river along with the Tubbataha coral reefs.
Palawan-based environmental activist Grizelda Mayo-Anda also expressed concern.
“My business is wary because we have had problems already with resorts integrated mangrove areas,” Mayo-Anda, executive director with the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, told AFP.
“I’m really concerned because sometimes, with due respect into the municipality unit, we get intrigued with new projects therefore we really don\’t judiciously study the impact.”
Viacom’s Philippine partner, Coral World Park, insisted the place wouldn\’t hurt the environment.
“We\’ve been taking very, wary measures to make sure that the biodiversity is kept intact,” Coral World Park chairman Paul Monozca told AFP.
The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, a government body, said the work had not yet been approved.