Haribon Statement on Coral World Park in Coron

June 9, 2017

Locals, Indigenous Peoples, & biodiversity must be top priority for any “eco-tourism” project.

2017 06 09 nickelodeon statement2

The Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. and PAMANA Ka Sa Pilipinas, the largest network of community-based marine protected area managers condemn Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo’s public declaration of support of the building of the Coral World Park in Coron, Palawan.

We take a stand against the building of any entertainment resort complex in Coron, Palawan, within any area that is part of or near any protected area or nature reserve.

The construction activity itself and the resulting deluge of people to such a resort will have harmful effects to the surrounding environment, including the plethora of wastes as a result of tourism activities that not even the best protection and conservation measures can prevent or guard against.

The estimated value of lost ecosystem services of Coron reefs is at $36,794 per hectare every year (Costanza, et. al, 2014) if the project pushes through. This includes forfeited fishing opportunities for local fishers, storm protection and the release of 268.8 tons of carbon stocks per hectare of deforested mangrove areas (Abino et al., 2014).

2017 06 09 Elegance coral Ditto dela Rosa

This project by Nickelodeon and Coral World Park Undersea Resorts will affect how corals settle and build a reef thereby threatening tens of thousands of marine species sheltered by reefs. Needless to say, the construction will affect corals and other biodiversity which rely heavily on their tactile and aural sensory to navigate and settle on reefs.

The presence of Anacropora spinosa, an endemic coral gives a concrete picture to the construction’s potential impacts. The Philippines has 29 of the 50 Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) Coral Reef species, including the elegance coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei), considered Vulnerable by Philippine coral scientists and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Some of which are found in Coron.

These coastal habitats are feeding and nursery grounds for 1,881 coral reef associated fishes. At least two species of blennies, a small tropical reef-dwelling fish, are found only in the Calamianes Island, including Coron, in the Philippines such as the Ecsenius kurti and E. tricolor (Allen et al. 2003). The fact that “development” projects fail to consider the cost of evolutionary history that will be lost when the plan gets a green light is devastating.

There are tourists who put more premium on natural and cultural heritage – the ideal for ecotourism. Consumers (read: tourists) who support eco-tourism will normally expect and prefer the natural environment, not manmade or artificial structures, and therefore engage in increasingly popular activities such as hiking, river rafting, scuba diving and wildlife watching.

Ultimately, we invite Sec. Teo to peruse her office’s National Tourism Development Plan, which espouses a “highly competitive and environmentally and socially responsible tourism that delivers more widely distributed income.”

Haribon calls on Sec. Teo to consider the following:

  1. Put the locals on top priority (i.e. governance): Consider local knowledge and opportunities for employment. Recognize the rights of affected indigenous groups (i.e. Tagbanuas) including issues about ancestral domains and participation in decision-making processes.
  2. Promote the management of natural habitats and ecological services (i.e. habitat management) to enhance biodiversity that benefits the entire community through healthy ecology, ecotourism and sustainable livelihood.
  3. Convert tourism investments into local conservation actions: DOT should capitalize on the Philippines, as a mega-biodiverse country and the global center of marine biodiversity, by promoting appreciation of the natural environment in its natural state and underscoring its life-giving attributes.

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