MANILA - Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered an inquiry into the reported plan of American television network Nickelodeon to build a theme park in Coron, Palawan, which has drawn protests.
In a statement, Cimatu said Thursday that he has directed the bureaus on biodiversity and environmental management to "undertake an inquiry into this proposed plan, so that at the outset we can ensure that we continue to conserve and protect this last bastion of coastal biodiversity in Palawan."
The environment chief said he ordered the investigation even if his department has "not yet received any formal communication from any project proponent" of the theme park.
"We are, however, trying to find out the specifics of this supposed project even as we await the formal receipt of the said proposal," he said.
Coron is part of the Calamianes Group of Islands, a key marine biodiversity area that supports the livelihood of local communities, Cimatu noted. It is also the ancestral domain of the indigenous people of the Tagbanua tribe.
Cimatu said environment officials would work closely with the tourism department, the local government, the Tagbanuas and their council of elders, and other key stakeholders in conducting the inquiry.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo earlier said Nickelodeon would push through with the development, which would include a floating restaurant, hotel and condominium.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) later clarified that it had no authority to issue permits for the development.
Former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez had opposed the idea of an underwater park in Coron, saying it would damage corals in the area.