IPs, Palawan groups intensify opposition to planned Nickelodeon undersea attraction

Press release - July 27, 2017
Puerto Princesa, Palawan – Indigenous peoples from Coron and nearby islands, together with local groups in the province, are rejecting the proposed Nickelodeon underwater theme park amid concerns over the project’s environmental and cultural impact in the municipality.

The groups also expressed fears over possible displacement of indigenous peoples (IP) and local communities once the attraction is given a green light.
“The indigenous peoples of Coron are living independently and our communities are self-reliant, because of the island’s natural beauty and blessings,” said Armil Pe Abella of Tagbanua Tribes of Coron Island Association, Inc. (TTCIA).
“The legendary heroes of Coron will unite and defend the last ecological frontier of the country, where we live with freedom and abundance,” he added.
The group just came back from Manila, where they met with representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and submitted a petition letter, signed by 15 tribal justices, the Tagbanua Council of Elders, and members of the tribe, reiterating their right over the island.
TTCIA further reminded the agency that the Government of the Philippines has recognized IP rights over Coron Island and its ancestral waters, and that its natural resources sustain the abundant livelihood and culture of the Tagbanua.
“What and who will benefit in the construction of artificial platforms, such as the proposed Nickelodeon undersea theme park, which will undoubtedly destroy Coron’s marine ecosystems? The legitimate owners of Coron, if the planned attraction is realized, will lose access to our land, our waters, and will negatively affect our culture and way of life. We do not need an underwater theme park in Coron,” the tribe said in the petition letter.
The planned attraction has been drawing flak from environmental and civil society organizations since January, when Viacom International Media Networks, the global media company that owns Nickelodeon, announced plans to build a tourist attraction in Coron, with CWP as the project’s developer. According to their original press release, the structure would “feature one-of-its-kind resort dining experience with CWP’s trademark underwater restaurants and lounges, which will be located about 20 feet below sea level with vivid views of the world beneath the ocean.”[1]
Last May, the Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo said in an interview on CNN Philippines that the controversial project would “push through.” She, however backtracked and pointed to the DENR for the decision on the project’s approval.
Despite this, CWP submitted a letter of intent to invest in Coron to its Mayor, Jerry Barracoso, on January 25.[2] On January 27, CWP’s Marketing Director, Susan Lee, told the environmental news portal Mongabay that the master plan would be published “in another two months.”[3] More than four months later, the master plan has not been made available to the public, nor to the local government.
“Palawan’s biodiversity needs to be maintained and nurtured.  We have laws, policies and programs that provide for maintaining Palawan’s biodiversity. The CWP project cannot contribute to this effort as its nature and development strategy runs counter to existing conservation strategies as well as community-based resource management efforts. We need to remind our leaders and our fellow citizens that we need to make a solid stand on the CWP project.  The future generations expect us to do so,” said Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC).
Meanwhile, Greenpeace Philippines underscored the power of citizens against corporate giants, which was exemplified by the Bataris petition that sparked nationwide opposition to the Nickelodeon project. The online petition gathered over 200,000 online signatures within a few days, with the #CoronisnotBikiniBottom trending on various social media channels for several days. It rose to over 250,000 signatures after Teo’s statement.
“More than quarter of a million individuals from around the globe have spoken against the project through the online petition platform Bataris.org.ph. These individuals are calling on Viacom International Media Networks, owner of Nickelodeon, to cut its ties with Coral World Park and drop this outrageous project as early as possible, or else face a possible reputational backlash. There is nothing entertaining and educational about destroying a biologically important and fragile ecosystem that provides food, livelihood, and various ecosystem services, including cultural identity to indigenous peoples,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.
“The youth can do something to keep our environment thriving for the benefit of the next generation. By joining environmental initiatives as this, we can greatly contribute to the protection of Palawan against the threats it is facing,” said John Roderick Madarcos of Scubasurero, a local youth group.
Notes to Editors:

[1] Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. and Viacom International Media Networks Collaborate to develop a new Nickelodeon resort and attraction. 9 January 2017. http://vimnasiapress.pr.co/141341-coral-world-park-undersea-resorts-inc-and-viacom-international-media-networks-collaborate-to-develop-a-new-nickelodeon-resort-and-attr
[2] No to Nickelodeon’s Underwater Theme Park in Palawan
[3] “SpongeBob SquarePants and the “last frontier of the Philippines” 23 February 2017. https://news.mongabay.com/2017/02/spongebob-squarepants-and-the-last-frontier-of-the-philippines/
For more information:
Vince Cinches, Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines
| +63 949 889 1336
Angelica Carballo Pago, Media Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines
| +63 949 889 1332
Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda, Executive Director, Environmental Legal Assistance Center – Palawan
| 0918 936 7764