Sunday, 4 June 2017

No to Nickelodeon in Coron Palawan: Open Letter to Philippine Tourism Secretary Teo

AN OPEN LETTER to Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo
Dear Madam:
I strongly oppose the construction in Coron of Nickelodeon, an ocean park with a name that also sounds dangerous. The ocean is not a private property. The Filipino people owns it as much as the fishes and corals.
Madam Teo, the construction of an underwater or floating marine park like Nickelodeon in Coron is not as easy as just you saying, ‘’as long as it does not harm the corals.’’ Period. That is all what you can say, un-intelligently. It goes beyond that. I have attached two slides from my series of Coron Initiative presentations on the ecological value chain and conservation management interventions in tourism, for you to stop this project.
In the ecological chain, I reckon if your goal is purely tourism only which I assume is, ergo, it is then your only driver of approval of this project. It is all about tourism receipts in your mind. Tourism creates pressure to nature. Any infrastructure specially over and within the waters is intrusion to the “internal organs” of nature, the seas. We in fact discourage resorts on stilts over the coastal waters as they can affect the natural ecosystem of the coastlines, the most miniscule of living organisms. For example, corals need the sun and any permanent blockage of such will kill them.
The tourism pressure for sales receipts in this project will create a state of degradation to the corals and possible human contamination from wastes which can create havoc such as leakages, water contaminations from repairs and maintenance, carbon footprints, noise pollution brought about by engines and over capacitations, much more the facilities can be destroyed by strong typhoons or ocean calamities much like you can sink an oil tanker for oil spill. This will reduce or halt the functions of the ecosystems as a consequential impact, serious it may be. It can be irreversible. Yes Madam Teo, it is very very dangerous. As environmentalists say, never play with nature. You can never tell how it will behave. Nature knows nobody, including you Madame Teo.
Therefore, as a response, our eco-interpretations is different from just profit- interpretations of yours such as tourism receipts. And the glorifications of your office having done this project of no relevance to our archipelago as a virgin nature destination in the first place not a coral Disneyland. You do not make a Disneyland underwater. Build it upland if you are desperate which is the plan. You are safer there. But do not build in the waters.
While some projects are environmentally compliant, they can be as bad in implementations and monitoring, which Filipinos are bad at, sorry to say that. The problem also will rise when there is a precedence, and all other infrastructure follows. It will get out of control specially when other greedy spying investors find it lucrative and your decisions are superseded by many of them.
Our Earth is a very complex nature while we just make any destructions just to gain material success. You may see your hands but you can not see the system that works within. That is how complex it is. Yes, you may see the floating theme park but you will not know what could happen underneath the seas.
Nature is not subject to systematically increased physical degradation by society. Nature is not subject to be destroyed as a source of materials to take care of people’s needs including profits.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development defines that development should meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generation. Between man and nature, it is business greediness that will ruin the planet. Nicklelodeon is about greediness and profitability without considering the planet.
On the conservation interventions, you will also endanger the cultural pillars of the Tagbanwa tribe of Palawan. The Calamianes has the biggest ancestral land domain in the Philippines belonging to the Tagbanwa. You can not just plant in physical intrusion in there just like this Nickelodeon will be a UFO in their midst. As my capacity as consultant to the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples working with the IP’s including those in Palawan, there are shared beliefs among the indigenous people that their domain and traditions are taken over by modern fondness for anything concrete and displacing them with infrastructures.
Sadly, our government tourism efforts is cement happy. And only figure conscious with tourist receipts. Having been a consultant to USAID and Research, Education & Institutional Development ( REID) project on Compete Philippines in tourism related developmental works, many tourism stake holders have forgotten the very essences of sustainable tourism development which is to nourish the improvements of the communities while we reduce their displacements by the ruthless big players and dislodge them from their living spaces. Many will forgo their dignity of work in their own land and remove their sense of belonging in keeping nature as living as it should in tandem with its cultural heritage.
The National Council for Culture and the Arts ( NCCA) created an act and mandate that when we destroy our environmental heritage, we will also destroy our cultural heritage, specially for the indigenous people whose beginnings and core of life is anchored on nature itself.
The Coron Initiative has made a policy that the islands and its seas should remain virgin because Coron has been declared as a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Yes Madam Teo, by 4pm everyday, it is required that tourists leave the islands for the wildlife to rest. Coron has one of the highest avian diversities in the world. Same for its coral reefs. How can you enjoy the corals underneath or above a humongous roaring glass bauble while being an intruder? You better watch the corals in you tube. How can you enjoy bird watching enclosed in cages as a parallelism?
Coron, much like our other islands, has so much problems already such as over developments, uncontrolled infrastructure, poor zoning, trash dumping, deforestation, waste water , over capacitations which have high negative impacts on the environment.
As tourism secretary, you try to look into these concerns first, at least understand them and connect the dots, rather than acting like as unintelligent tourist guide, which is your business anyway, as a tour agency practitioner appointed as a tourism secretary.
As a pioneering member of the Coron Initiative which was created by the Calamianes Cultural Conservation Network Inc. (CCCNI) co-organized by the Society for Sustainable Tourism & Development, Inc. (SSTDI) a group for which I am a bonfide member and mentor, I oppose building a themepark in the waters of Coron.
Coron Initiative was organized in July 2013 as supported by the United Nations Environment Development Program (UNEP) through the Asia Pacific Forum for Environment and Development ( APFED) which supports platforms for public and private environmental conservation, sustainable tourism development and stewardship, in this case for Coron and Calamianes Island. It was authored by Susan Santos de Cardenas of SSTDI, who worked with our team of national and international volunteers to develop Coron's sustainable initiatives.
Bhutan protects its nature yet its tourism is alive. If we build something on a very delicate ecosystem, and if we are not sure of it , don’t. We are imposing negative impacts on the marine ecosystem on our coastlines and the islands, the worse is, we will kill the delicate biodiversity, because we acted mum.
PJ Aranador
More information on Coron Initiative

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