It was almost a year ago since I last set foot in Palawan. Like every other tourist who has been a witness to its indubitable beauty, I promised myself to go back and once again admire its islands just as they were – untouched and unpiloted by hungry firms waiting for windfall profits.
A month ago, Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. and Viacom International Media Networks, the owner of Nickelodeon, an American television network that created popular TV cartoons like SpongeBob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer, announced their plan of building an underwater theme park and resort on the country’s world-renowned marine ecosystem.
The theme park, which is expected to open in 2020, was said to be the world’s first undersea attraction to be built in Asia and will be part of a 400-hectare undersea development in Coron, Palawan.
The announcement immediately drew flak from environmentalists. The Department of Natural and Environmental Resources also expressed disapproval and said it would not let the theme park push through. Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. then clarified that the underwater theme park would be built on land.
Even though developers claim that the theme park will advocate ocean protection and coral reef conservation, there is still no assurance that the biodiversity in Palawan would remain unspoiled given that restaurants and lounges “20 feet below sea level with vivid views of the world beneath the ocean” are being eyed.
I do not see why there is a need to build an attraction that might cause irreversible damage to Palawan, endangering the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Coron. Palawan itself is a paradise long enjoyed and admired by the world without man-made playgrounds. The theme park might even hinder future generations to admire one of the most beautiful gifts of nature.
While a Nick-inspired theme park might get people excited about the Philippines, Palawan’s sumptuous beaches and islands will remain irreplaceable. Palawan has already made a name for itself and it does not need to be dubbed as the new “Bikini Bottom” for it to be famous.
It would not be dubbed as the country’s “last frontier” for nothing. Its coastlines and forests are some of the oldest in Southeast Asia. Two places in Palawan are likewise Unesco World Heritage Sites: the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. It would be a shame if the world would trade Palawan’s natural beauty for an amusement park.