By Carolyn Bonquin
MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Monday clarified that it had no role in approving permits for the construction of the widely protested Nickelodeon theme park in Palawan, after its chief said in an interview that the project would be pushing through.
Tourism Undersecretary Frederick Alegre explained that Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo was simply being candid when she told a local television show that the US network would “pursue” its construction of the development, which would include a floating restaurant, hotel and condominium building in the province.
“She was just very candid about it. We have seen the plans. It remains a concept. It’s an exciting concept, but the decision to proceed lies in other government agencies,” said Alegre said.
Former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez had opposed the idea of an underwater park in Coron, saying it would damage corals in the area. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) regional office also maintained that it still “has to see pertinent papers of the resort.”
DENR-MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) asserted that “tourists flock Coron because of its natural attractions,” and that the construction of the theme park would “impact its ecosystem and rich biodiversity.”
The office said it plans to hold consultations with stakeholders to ensure that all views would be taken into consideration.
An online campaign against the construction of the Nickelodeon theme park has so far collected 250,000 signatures.
Environment group Greenpeace said 50,000 immediately signed the campaign after Teo’s statement that her department was “excited” about the development, and that she hopes it would draw tourists, assuring that natural resources in Coron will be preserved.
The group scored the DOT for its allegedly “irresponsible” statement.
“The way the DOT communicated the project to the public, parang sinasabi niya, ‘The project will push through, ha. Hindi namin sisirain.’ It’s quite irresponsible because wala naman silang natanggap na mga document,” said Vince Cinches.
“Pangalawa, DOT is not in the position to look at the impact of the project,” he added.
Cinches said there should be wide consultation about the project with those who may be affected, especially residents.
He insisted that it was impossible that the project would not hurt marine wildlife in the area even if the planned structures were designed to float on water.
“If you’re going to put up a very massive structure, kailangan mo i-anchor eh. Meron siyang tatamaan… It will displace fishing communities,” he said.