The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Wednesday said it had no say on whether the controversial undersea-themed resort and attraction in Coron, Palawan, would push through or not, despite mounting calls from environmentalists and conservationists to stop the project.
In a press conference in Makati City on Wednesday, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo sought to correct impressions that the DOT had the last say on the project, saying the developer must obtain the required permits from environment and local officials.
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“At the end of the day, it’s not us (DOT) which will issue the permits. It’s the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the local government unit. We’re just here to sell the destination when it’s ready, and after it has complied with the legal and environmental requirements.” she said.
Teo said the Nickelodeon project was still in the “concept-stage” when it was presented to her by the proponents sometime last year.
She, however, admitted that she found their concept good and “one-of-a-kind.”
“But after their presentation, they didn’t come back again,” she said.
Teo said the resort and the attractions would generate tourism activity in the area, attract more visitors and generate jobs.
She said she inquired about the possible effects of the project on the coral reef and the marine ecosystem in Coron, but was assured that there would be no harm to the environment as the development would be land-based.
Teo said the floating restaurant earlier mentioned as part of the project would not even touch the corals, which will just be seen by patrons through view decks.
The developer, Coral World Park (CWP) Undersea Resorts Inc., clarified that the project would be land-based, as the Nickelodeon facility would have condominiums, hotels and other facilities catering to tourists.
A CWP official said they never stated that the project was an underwater theme park, but an “undersea-themed” resort and attraction.
The Nickelodeon facility covers 100 hectares while the attraction would encompass 30 more hectares, which would only feature the floating restaurant.
The Nickelodeon facility, according to the CWP official, will be built on private property but the company would get all necessary permits and clearances from the government before starting construction.
If approved, the project would take five years in order to comply with international and environment-related standards pertaining conservation tourism, renewable energy and Category-5 storm-proof architecture, CWP said.
Nickelodeon’s parent company Viacom International Media Networks, in partnership with CWP, announced the project last January.
Viacom said the property would feature Nickelodeon’s iconic characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Dora the Explorer.
CWP said the resort would center on conservation tourism and, when completed, would be the largest coral reef conservation program in Asia.
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