Spa plan on active volcano fizzles

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2007, 12:00am

Plans to build a luxury spa resort on the slopes of an active volcano in the Philippines look to be going up in smoke after Secretary for Tourism Ace Durano said he would veto the project.

Mr Durano said on Saturday he would deny Jung Ang Interventure, a joint Filipino-South Korean firm, any permit to operate the planned eco-tourism project near the crater of Taal Volcano in Batangas province, 60km south of Manila.

'Our policy is not to issue any such permit. Because of the nature of the area as a permanent danger zone, Taal is really just for sightseeing,' he said.

He confirmed his office earlier issued the company a certification, but this merely stated that Taal was a tourist spot, he said.

The tourism department became the third state entity to withdraw support for the controversial project.

Batangas Governor Vilma Santos announced last Monday, her first day in office, that she would not allow the spa.

The spa would 'ruin the beauty of Taal, a national sanctuary' and pose a danger to tourists, she said after meeting Taal residents who complained of being ejected from their homes to make way for the 6-hectare project.

The next day, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes ordered construction suspended.

On a surprise visit to the site, Mr Reyes said he saw an access road which was not in the original plan being built, in clear violation of the environmental compliance certificate his agency issued in 2005. That certificate has not yet been revoked, however.

Executives from Jung Ang have refused to be interviewed.

Taal is known to have erupted 33 times and killed 1,335 people in 1911. An official alert of an imminent eruption, raised in 2005, was never lifted.