MOTHER EARTH MONDAY|
An ocean adventure
park that not only wants to exhibit dolphins but allow paying
customers to swim with them, is in hot water with the Philippines
Last month, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR) issued a cease and desist order against Subic Bay Marine
Exploratorium Inc. It is alleged the developer did not receive an
environmental clearance certificate to build the park, which plans to
feature dolphins, false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) and fur
seals (Otaria byronia).
The company responded by threatening to sue the DENR. It says it
obtained an environmental clearance certificate and an environmental
impact statement from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.
A U.S. military base until 1992, Subic Bay, just north of Manila, is
now a thriving economic zone with a mix of industrial areas and
protected areas administered by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority
As part of its vision to develop nature parks while protecting the
port's natural resources, the SBMA gave its blessing to a
development variously described as a biotheme park, an exploratorium
and an ocean adventure park.
Construction of the park began earlier this year at the Camayan
wharf, located within the freeport's protected area. The developer,
Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, headed by American Tim Desmond
and his U.S. based company Active Environments, planned to open
the park this summer.
In an interview with the Manila Bulletin in February, Desmond
explained the project would bring leading animal behavior scientists
and zoologists to work with their Filipino counterparts. They would
create a working biopark model "and become the toast of zoological
societies all over the world," said Desmond.
In the same Manila Bulletin article, SBMA chairman Felicito Payumo
elaborated on the park's "edutainment" plans.
Dolphins meet swimmers
almost daily at Monkey Mia.
"The exploratorium will not only be
featuring entertaining dolphin or
sea lion shows, but at the same
time provide interaction between
man and these animals," said
"This is one way of reaching out to
Filipinos, to expose them to marine
life so that they will see the value
of preserving the country's
Animal welfare organizations did
not see the swim with dolphins
plan in an educational light.
"Swim with the dolphins programs
add an increased element of exploitation without adding any
perceivable additional educational benefits," wrote the Humane
Society of the United States. "In fact, swim with dolphins programs
mis-educate the public to believe that dolphins desire our company
as much as we desire theirs."
The plan will "destroy the complex social structure of the bottlenose
dolphin and their only escape is death," wrote the 80,000 member
Organization for the Protection of Animals.
"It has been well
documented in our
facilities that the
dolphins do not fare
well in captivity,"
wrote San Diego
Animal Advocates. "It
would be distressing to
see Mr. Desmond profit from the exploitation of your ocean
"Mr. Desmondís plan is not only severely threatening to the dolphin
population, it also represents one more example of a U.S. citizen
profiting from the exploitation of a Philippine resource," wrote the
65,000 member In Defense of Animals group.
"Rather than confining dolphins to a holding facility, you can offer
your citizens and visiting guests the opportunity to observe dolphins
in their natural environment through boat tours and other outdoor
activities," suggested the Doris Day Animal League.
On receiving these and other letters, the DENR responded. "Based on
the letters that we have been receiving, there is too much opposition
against the project," said DENR officer in charge Joemari Gerochi.
Gerochi ordered DENR's legal department to
investigate whether Subic Bay Marine
Exploratorium had broken environmental and
Mundita Lim, assistant director of the Protected
Areas and Wildlife Bureau, reported back that
park construction was under way without the
necessary environmental impact assessment and
environmental impact statement.
"This was supposed to have been undertaken by the Subic Bay
Ecology Center of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, but repeated
requests for copies by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Marine
Mammal Conservation through Mr. Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan were
unanswered," said Mundita.
The Inter-Agency Task Force is dedicated to the conservation of
marine mammals in the Philippines, and advises on policies regarding
marine mammal conservation.
Lim's investigation also alleged that marine
specimens were imported, transported and
collected without permits, and issues on animal
welfare had been left unanswered.
Last week, in a report to Philippine President
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the DENR stated only
it had the authority to issue environmental
clearance certificates (ECCs) or to approve environmental impact
statements in such cases.
"The department ascertains its authority over activities that
significantly affect the environment, particularly in the processing
and issuance of ECCs for all environmentally critical areas," said DENR
Secretary Heherson Alvarez.