Wanda Teo: Nickelodeon theme park in Coron 'pushing through'

PALAWAN, Philippines – Despite fierce opposition from the conservation community, the planned Nickelodeon theme park in Coron in northern Palawan is "pushing through," said  Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo.

The tourism chief confirmed this in an interview with CNN Philippines aired on Thursday, June 1.

“Yes, they’re pushing through,” she said, when asked about the controversial project.

Teo said that the developers – Nickelodeon’s parent company, Viacom International Media Networks, and partner Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Incorporated – personally assured her that the project will not cause irreparable damage to the town’s marine ecosystem, particularly the coral reefs. (READ: VIRAL: Environmentalists gather signatures to protest Nickelodeon park in Palawan

“They are not going to destroy the corals,” she said.

The executives met with Teo after various groups strongly opposed the project when it was announced in January. Teo said the developers wanted to explain their side, and to assure her that the project will not be detrimental to the environment.

She recalled them telling her: "We are not going to destroy the corals. The restaurant will be floating…and we will preserve the place.”

Teo said Palawan officials feared the environmental consequences of the project who "thought that the corals would be destroyed." (READ: Nickelodeon park: Palawan execs say oceans not 'private' properties)

She defended the project, citing what the developers told her: “But this one, no. They would be on top of the water. It will be floating, like a floating hotel, a floating restaurant wherein you will see the corals."

'Lucky'

Teo  said the developers will also build condominiums and had already identified a place for those structures.

Teo also said she was told that the Philippines is "lucky" since it was picked over Indonesia for the project.

“In fact, they said: ‘You’re lucky because, actually, we were thinking of a place somewhere in Indonesia.' But they bid and it’s in Coron,” she said.

Asked if the project was pursued in coordination with her department, Teo said: “Actually, not. They were just the ones who told us.”

Teo said that she only learned about the project when she read the news reports earlier this year. Later, when she finally sat down with the developers meet, Teo said she told them, "As long as you don’t destroy the corals, as long as you preserve the environment – that’s okay.”

Teo added that the company also showed her a map but they haven’t talked about when the project would begin. 

Conservation groups in the country are preparing to mount a campaign to counteract the Nickelodeon project.

In January, Viacom announced its collaboration with Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Incorporated, to develop a Nickelodeon undersea attraction in Coron – part of Coral World Park (CWP), a 400-hectare theme park in Coron that is expected to open in 2020.

According to the  Viacom statement in January, "Nickelodeon’s first resort in Southeast Asia is slated to have 70 hectares set aside for the resort’s accommodation and 30 hectares for the themed attraction." – Rappler.com