Alarm as 1,000-acre underwater “SpongeBob” resort planned for Palawan

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Environmentalists have today (Tuesday, January 10) expressed their horror after kids’ TV network Nickelodeon announced plans for an underwater theme park and resort in Palawan.

The 1,000-acre development on what is described as the Philippines’ “last ecological frontier” will showcase the area’s marine life as well as allow fans to meet their favourite cartoon characters, such as SpongeBob SquarePants.

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Ron Johnson, an executive vice president at Viacom International Media Networks, owner of Nickelodeon, told news agency AFP that Coron, Palawan, was chosen because “it is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world today”.

His colleague, Gerald Raines, senior vice president global recreation, said: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Coral World Park to open the world’s first undersea attraction and Nickelodeon’s first resort in Southeast Asia as we continue to expand on our theme-based attractions in Asia and across the world.

“This is yet another important step in boosting the Nickelodeon entertainment experience as we continue to give our fans, kids and their families, new ways to interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love.”

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Alarm as 1,000-acre underwater "SpongeBob" resort planned for Palawan

According to Viacom’s initial statement of intent, the resort is expected to open in 2020 and feature restaurants and lounges 20-ft beneath the waves.

The statement also claims that the tourist attraction would “advocate ocean protection” and work to conserve coral reefs.

However, environmentalists say the development would have a terrible impact on the area’s world-renowned marine ecosystem.

Vince Cinches of Greenpeach Southeast Asia said: “It’s sad and alarming because a theme park that big will not promote environmental protection by building those structures.

“Why build a viewing deck when you have the whole paradise to enjoy?”

Ecological groups have long described Palawan as “the last frontier” because of its undeveloped coastlines and forests.

Palawan is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Puerto Princesa underground river and the world-famous Tubbataha coral reefs.

Viacom’s Philippine partner, Coral World Park, insisted the resort would not hurt the environment.

“We are taking very, very careful measures to ensure that the biodiversity is kept intact,” Coral World Park chairman Paul Monozca said.

He added that the development would be part of a coral reef conservation programme including a marine sanctuary for species like dolphins and sea cows.

The project is yet to be approved by government.

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