Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A chat with Resorts World

Last Friday, 28 March 2008, this monkey was invited to Resorts World for tea by Lynn Lee, the communications and corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager at Resorts World. Lynn emailed me about 2 weeks before that, saying that she's seen my previous post on the EIA of Resorts World, liked what I wrote, saying it's a balanced view and would like to invite me to tea. Unsure what she was really asking of me, I decided to go anyways.

To cut the long story short, when I arrived, Lynn greeted me together with Robin Goh, the Assistant Director of Communications. First they showed me the model of Resorts World and I felt like I've wasted $10 just to get to Resorts World (RW) only to hear a PR introduction to the "awesome" features of the integrated resort. Nonetheless, it was good to find out what is at RW.

Phase 1: Universal Studios

What you see in the above image is the future Universal Studio. This is the first phase of development and will also be the first to open. The road that used to run across this area has been rediverted. Previously the mention of transplanted trees were mainly from this road diversion and this area of development. They were moved to a nursery on Sentosa and will be replanted. Sounds more symbolic than anything else.

Logically, knowing our highly effective country, I am sure that there would be a tireless team in charge of ensuring that tax payers money are well spent; making sure that we get what we paid for. I'm sure when you order a big mac, you expect a big mac. If you get a hamburger, you would feel cheated. As such, I think this would mean to me that the chances of whale sharks and oceanarium making their way to Singapore is highly probable.

Phase 2

Nonetheless this is the second phase of development and according to Lynn and Robin, they are currently working with Louis Ng of ACRES to discuss various animal welfare and animal rights issue. I did not know enough to get any point across surely but I trust that Louis will do his best. One thing this monkey does know is that, I have hated Sea World after visiting it once when I was 13, seeing a killer whale stuck in a bathtub, I would never visit that oceanarium even if I know I'll never get to see a whale shark any other way. All I know is that whale sharks are nomadic and far-ranging as they follow plankton blooms over large areas of the eastern Indian Ocean.

What I did complain about, albeit redundant since it's already been reclaimed, is the fact that they reclaimed the coastline at the Phase 2 site, only to then dig it up to make into waterways for the Maritime Xperiential Museum and Oceanarium. What they did offer in consolation is that they will be giving lots of money away to support research in coral reefs. Considering that we only have 1 marine lab in Singapore, the chances of the money going to non-Singaporeans are oh-so-high.

However, optimistic monkey, having observed this phenomenon many times in Singapore's reclamation history, suggested that perhaps there is a chance that the reclamation may miss a few spots of corals in its reclamation. I see this as extremely improbable but the area right beneath the cable car tower has historically been left untouched. In fact, it used to be an islet, can you imagine? It has been joint to the main island of Sentosa over countless reclamation and yet there are corals there. A concern is that the area there is too steep for public walks. Nonetheless, I suggested to RW that marine groups in Singapore be allowed access to recce the area once the reclamation has been completed. That way we will be able to document and assess if walks are possible. If such, I suggested to Lynn and Robin's excitement that we can conduct free guided walks. Of course, all this is pending RW management approval. Access to various places in RW such as the promenade is free you see so people will then be given access as a collaborative move on RW's part.

Phase 3: on the right of the cable car tower

The cable car tower acts as the dividing line for Phase 3 of the development. This is the area closest to Joe Lai's heart as this is the development near the forest. Unfortunately, reclamation just started here and I could not emphasize to Robin and Lynn more about how if it's only a "small patch that will be reclaimed" as they claimed, then they better make sure they go out of their way to make sure most of the corals don't get crushed by the barge coming in and out, etc. They claim that they are now making all their contractors adhere to certain stipulations of environmentality and they apparently have a department to enforce. Ok, still, what is the guideline for environmentality is another thing altogether.

Sentosa is one of the last few rocky shores we have

But if they want to make it into a white sand beach which Sentosa is really a rocky shore habitat, then good bye corals. We'll see you in the next world. However, they claim that since this is Phase 3, there is still time for negotiation and renegotiation before work actually has to start. It would appear that this is still a grey zone.

Nonetheless, this monkey suggested that if the water slide in the forest still goes through, then at least allow the nature path to go right beneath these slides. Let me explain. There is a nature path that allows you access to these forest. You can find the entrance near Siloso Beach, beside Underwater World. However, at the moment, the path has been blocked at the point where Resorts World begins. Thus I suggested to Robin and Lynn that the path should not be blocked once the development completes so that it's an "open concept" and there is still free public access to the forest. And if we want to see (mostly) naked people swinging around down the water slide, that's what we got to "suffer" to enjoy the trees.

Phase 3: can you see the slides in the back sticking out of the trees?

Robin claims that the design of the water slide was originally meant to take out as little trees as possible anyways. I think they should contact Joe Lai to make sure each tree that's being "taken out" passes Joe's mark of standard. Ok, even I find that thought rather unimaginable. [I'm sorry I dare even let that thought crossed my mind, Joe!]

I do find it rather hard to believe when they said other than the water slide, all the other development, hotel and spa is taking place where the land was previously already developed. I had this feeling that the spa is cutting into the forest but then I don't have proof. Still, if you see the giant hole that is the RW now, we can only hope that they speak the truth. This kind of clear-everything-then-plant-back-later type of development, in academia, we called it the "scorched earth policy". Speaks for itself.

Meanwhile, RW strives to be uber green in their development even working at various "green" innovations. Whatever it is, my stand is that since the development is going to happen anyways, we have to stop wishing it'll go away miraculously. I prefer to make sure that it can only be as "green" as possible. Green not only in how much water or electricity it use but in its content and function. How it eats into the environment. Whether it allows people to access the forests and shores. Although all hope looks bleak, I remain somewhat optimistic. I like to give all a benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. Or am I just too naive?

RW claims that they intend to have panels where they will consult stakeholders for their views and I can only hope that comes true. I will probably try my best to attend since it'll only serve me to know what they are planning and try my best to think of ways which will benefit both the natural environment and the development. That's what sustainable development actually means unfortunately. Development is still in the equation. Depressing as that is, we can't run away from that living in a small city state like ours. Am I too fatalistic or should I be more radical?

Update @ 4.36pm 2 April:
I got a call and decided to edit a small bit of my post and deleted my comments even though my comments were positive. *shrugs* Either way, I don't want to cause anybody to lose their jobs.

While I don't want anybody to lose their jobs, I believe in transparency. What I absolutely cannot understand is WHY I cannot even make positive statements about certain elements. This only tells me that the company is yet to be willing to adhere to those statements.

At the same time, understand my positionality. What about my "job"? Assuming I would even write a nice supportive post detailing only the positive things RW is doing, I would lose all the trust and respect from everybody in the community. In adherance to transparency, I write a critical piece. But if that results in me never being engaged or contacted ever again then, I guess, that's just too bad. If a positive reporting of efforts are needed, write a press release. If you would like a dog, please go to the pet shop. Can't blame me for being upset, can you? [Related Reads: It's not easy being green]


pinto said...

You don't sound optimistic at all, even though you've mentioned it at least twice. After reading the whole post, neither am I.

eve+line said...

Too much corporate bull-shit. I know because I also sprout such bull-shit at times.

Monkey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ria said...

Part of the huge difficulty in establishing meaningful dialogue is, as you mention rightly, the issue of transparency.

In any case, if they have issues about your post, they could always leave a comment. This is what the comments is for.

It's good of you to give them the benefit of the doubt and go with an open mind and open heart.

They should not then tell you what to say or think.

Otherwise, as you say, they should go buy a dog, or perhaps a parrot :-)

Joseph Lai Tuck Kwong said...

Imagine this for a moment... a surrealistic seesaw and you in the middle - on the pivot. Imagine the seesaw rocking... a'rocking on the back of a whale shark which is grimacing with pain at each seesawing. Both ends laughing... yes, there is money to be earned... a first-world laughter of progress... Resort World and Garmen on opposite pole... laughing. You turn to your right and you turn to your left. You ask the same question; No answer; just laughing and laughing... It's a mad world out there, you know... not this surrealistic dreamscape... Will you get any meaningful dialogue this way... ever? The seesawing game continues... poor whale shark... poor children... they are learning from our real world. Think about it.

Monkey said...

joe, wow that's some very vivid nightmare :x

crusader_13 said...

stumbled upon this blog while doing some research on the effects of integrated resorts on S'pore's economy...
upon seeing your experience, i must say that i am very surprised that RW actually talked to you about your comments. this is really a show of "blogger power" for us! haha
to be fair, i feel that there aren’t clear-cut solutions to these issues. But I’d think it’s far better to have dialogue between companies and conservationists than for both sides to pretend the other’s view does not exist. Maybe RW is still new at this but at least they are trying. Think about the many companies who don’t even bother about reaching out as long as Garmen says it’s OK to chop down trees, remove corals etc.

please post further updates if RW contacts u again. this will be very useful for my research! thanks again. lol

Peng said...

I congratualte you on an interesting read and I applaud RW for their willingness to open to someone like yourself. Any further attempt by them to influence your views and comments will only serve to sabotage their own initial effort to be "negotiable".