Nickelodeon Under Fire For Its Plan To Build Underwater Theme Park In The Philippines

Nickelodeon is facing the outcries of concerned citizens and environmentalists after the network’s announcement of its plan to construct an underwater theme park in Palawan, the last ecological frontier of the Philippines. Many believe that the plan will only ruin the world-famous marine ecosystem. The children’s television network declared that the islands of Palawan will be included in the 400-hectare project. The network behind SpongeBob SquarePants believes that the marine park will allow fans to “interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love.” Characters from “Spongebob Squarepants” appear at FAN FEST during the 2016 BET Experience on June 25, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. [Image by Angela Weiss/Getty Images] The underwater theme park is set to open in 2020 and apart from attractions that will “advocate ocean protection” such as lagoons, hot springs, animal reserves, and man-made shipwrecks for diving experiences, it will also have a resort and a series of restaurants. Palawan was reportedly chosen for the project as it is the home of some of the world’s most pristine beaches. Palawan is deemed as the country’s “last frontier” because its coastlines and forests are some of the oldest in Southeast Asia. Two sites in Palawan are likewise listed as Unesco World Heritage Sites: the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. However, despite the assurances that the company is trying to come up with ideas that will further keep Palawan’s biodiversity intact, conservation groups find the project alarming. Vince Cinches of Greenpeace Southeast Asia told AFP via The Standard that “a theme park that big will not promote environmental protection by building those structures.” For them, it is absurd to “build a viewing deck when you have the whole paradise to enjoy.” After all, Palawan is known for providing tourists opportunities to connect with nature in relatively non-disruptive ways. Tag who you’d kayak with! Palawan, Philippines. ???? By @bieljuste A photo posted by Travel x Nature x Bucket List (@thebucketlist) on Jan 9, 2017 at 3:25pm PST Palawan’s Environmental Legal Assistance Center executive director Grizelda Mayo-Anda believes that the project’s impact to the environment is far from stellar. “I am wary because we have had problems already with resorts built in mangrove areas. I’m really concerned because sometimes, with all due respect to the local government unit, we get captivated by new projects and we do not judiciously study the impact.” Save Philippine Seas, a non-profit organization conducting community-based projects that aim to protect the country’s marine resources, started a campaign cleverly titled “Coron is not Bikini Bottom!” which pertains to the famous town SpongeBob and his friends live in. The signature campaign is addressed not only to Nickelodeon but also to the local government of Palawan as well as the network’s local partner, Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. As opposed to the network’s press releases that the project will protect Palawan’s marine ecosystems, the campaign says that the theme park will do the exact opposite because the construction of artificial structures will only lead to the disruption of marine life. “For a channel that targets children, Nickelodeon is setting a terrible example to the younger generation by taking away their right to enjoy our natural resources. We don’t need an underwater theme park — our underwater life is fascinating, entertaining, and educational on its own.” Less than 24 hours after the campaign started, it already gathered over 103,000 signatures out of its target of 200,000. Nickelodeon Asia’s Facebook page isn’t spared as well from people denouncing its plan. However, despite the press release of the network and its conglomerate Viacom, Palawan officials claim that they haven’t been contacted yet about the project. Speaking to CNN Philippines, Palawan Governor Pepito Alvarez said that he cannot comment on the issue because they “haven’t even gotten an application yet.” Coron officials echo his statements with Mayor Ajerico Barracdo claiming that it’s the first time they have heard of the plan and that Viacom hasn’t communicated with them yet. [Featured Image by Peter Cosgrove/AP Images]