It has only been a few days since the New 7 Wonders of Nature--including Puerto Princesa Underground River--were announced, but controversy already surrounds the contest, as reports surfaced of the alleged withdrawal of entries from the Maldives and Indonesia because of hidden fees, putting the contest's credibility into question.

The Guardian reports
that the Maldives tried to back out of the competition in May after the New7Wonders Foundation, a private company that organized the contest, allegedly asked them for $500,000 so that they could continue their campaign. Among the foundation's requests, writes Maldives newspaper The Minivan News, were sponsorship fees worth $350,000 and $210,000 as well as doing a World Tour event that would have the Maldives government covering all expenses (flights, hot air balloon rides, accommodations, and more) for a delegation visiting their country.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government withdrew the Komodo Island National Park in August, The Guardian reports, after refusing to pay the foundation $10 million for licensing and $47 million to host the contest's closing ceremony.

Despite the two countries' refusal to pay fees, however, their entries remained in the running, with the Komodo Island National Park making it into the top seven.

New7Wonders Foundation spokesperson Eammon Fitzgerald told GMANews.tv in an e-mail that none of the allegations were true. "The key word here is ‘allegedly.'"

Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo, one of the people who spearheaded the Puerto Princesa campaign in the Philippines, also called the claims "ridiculous" and said the Philippine government paid no such fees. "No funds for it, nor will [we] be willing to raise it just to join [the] contest, especially if it’s ‘a few million dollars,'" he told GMANews.tv in a text.

All countries who joined the New 7 Wonders contest initially paid $199 (or roughly P8,635) to register their entries, reports The Guardian.

While the Puerto Princesa Underground River has already been named one of the New 7 Wonders in initial tallies, the New7Wonders Foundation said the final list of winners will be announced in 2012.

Do you believe the allegations against the New 7 Wonders contest, FNites? Air your side by taking our poll! Don't forget to leave a comment with your opinion.

(Photo by Mike Gonzalez courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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