Nickelodeon scraps plan for SpongeBob SquarePants theme park in Palawan

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SpongeBob SquarePants
Coron, in Palawan, will be spared the development of an underwater themed tourist attraction

Nickelodeon has abandoned controversial plans for a SpongeBob SquarePants resort in Palawan following a backlash from environmentalists.

In January, the American children’s television channel revealed plans for an “undersea attraction and resort” that where visitors could “interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love” — such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.

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The plans triggered criticism from environmentalists who said it would threaten the area’s marine ecosystem, and an petition opposing the project soon attracted more than 260,000 signatures.

Viacom International Media Networks, which owns Nickelodeon, said today (Wednesday, August 23) that it had abandoned the scheme, which could have covered 1,000 acres.

In a statement sent to AFP the company said: “Viacom and Nickelodeon will no longer be involved with this proposed development.”

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The company added that the decision was “mutually agreed” with its Philippine partner, Coral World Park.

No details have been given about the reasons for pulling out.

Conservation groups have dubbed Palawan “the last ecological frontier” due to its pristine coastlines and forests.

It is home to two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, the Puerto Princesa subterranean river and the Tubbataha coral reefs.

When announcing the project in January, Viacom and Coral World Park highlighted the project’s “ocean conservation focus” and included plans for a giant marine sanctuary.

Despite the resort’s claim of having green credentials, environmental groups have claimed today’s announcement as a victory.

Vince Cinches of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said: “We commend Viacom for heeding the call of more than 200,000 online petitioners and the offline community campaign.

“They were able to dodge the bullet that has a huge reputational backlash for Nickelodeon which has been claiming it is children oriented.”

However, the executive director of environmental group Save Philippine Seas, Anna Oposa, said the campaign against the development was not over.

“Our position and strategy will not change: we’ll continue to call on the local government of Coron and provincial government of Palawan to reject the project,” she said.

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