Amid protests from environmentalists and Twitter users yesterday over Nickelodeon’s proposed underwater-themed park in Palawan, the official Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Twitter account released a statement from DENR secretary Gina Lopez regarding the issue. The tweet said that Lopez “won’t allow the underwater theme park in Palawan”.
It’s a simple statement, but it’s great that the department is really considering the impact that a structure could have on a pristine space like Palawan. The Nickelodeon underwater-themed park is only going to occupy a portion of the proposed 400-hectare Coral World Park. According to a statement released by Viacom, if the park does get built, it is set to span 16 white islands of Coron that will have features like “island hopping, hidden lagoons, hot springs, an animal reserve and world-class diving amidst shipwrecks.” They also added that it’s set to be “the largest coral reef conservation program in Asia.”
With the company’s plans to help conserve, some may ask why there is still such an uproar. Many of us have taken to pointing out the bigger picture — building a giant artificial structure on an island that’s been touted as the “last ecological frontier” of the Philippines is wrong simply because of the disruption. 98,173 people have signed the petition against it so far, so it’s safe to say that many people understand the repercussions of such a project.
We spoke with Dr. AA Yaptinchay, the founder and director of non-profit organization Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines (MWWP), in order to identify specific reasons as to why the park will be bad for Palawan. He mentioned that it’s really all about using your common sense (and trying to remember and make sense of all those crayon-colored ecosystem maps you drew in grade school).
In this case, noise and light pollution will be the main culprits for environmental degradation, but here are some of the specifics:
There’s no way that artificial structures of that size (400 hectares) won’t disrupt the natural habitats of wildlife, flora and fauna.
Coral World Park will be covering a hefty portion of land and marine area on Coron island, which is still pretty much pristine. Because of this, the habitats of all the living creatures in that portion will be destroyed, causing them to be displaced. Think of it this way: The beaches of Palawan are nesting places for turtles, so if you commercialize the beach, where will the turtles go to lay their eggs? There are also plenty of mangrove habitats and coral reefs around the island that house lots of different types of marine animals. Corals also need sunlight, so building tall structures that block the sun will only cause them to die.
Building a structure involves bringing in chemicals and other artificial materials.
Yaptinchay mentioned that chemicals needed for construction, like with cement, could mix in with the soil and the water. They would also have to tear up the soil in the area in order to build, which could cause sedimentation. There’s a high possibility that the sedimentation can affect nearby waters, and since corals need clear waters to survive, things won’t be looking up for them.
Even a tiny change in the structure can affect the whole ecosystem of the island.
If the corals die or if the turtles have nowhere to go, then other things, like their food source and the usual marine life will lead to the island’s whole ecosystem will be affected.
As if we needed more convincing, all of these reasons pretty much strengthen our opinion that building the park will be more than a bad idea. Coral World Park has yet to release further information on their plans for the park, and they have yet to respond to Lopez’s statement. We’ll update this story as we get more information.
*UPDATE as of 10:56 p.m.: Nickelodeon’s Facebook page has released a statement on the issue. In a message to a concerned citizen that was posted on Facebook, the company clarified that they are planning to build an undersea-themed attraction within the Coral World Park resort and not an “underwater park” as originally reported. The previous paragraphs mentioning an “underwater park” have since been updated.