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Furore Over Spa Planned on Active Philippines Volcano

A project to build a spa on the rim of one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines was in danger of being scuttled Wednesday by government regulators .

A South Korean group, Jung Ang Interventure, stands to lose its government permit to build a 72 million-peso (1.57 million-dollar) spa-resort on Taal volcano south of Manila unless it meets a range of environmental requirements.

Unless the company fulfils the demands by Thursday its environmental clearance certificate (ECC) will be withdrawn, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes said in a statement.

Company spokesmen could not be reached for comment.

Jung Ang bought a six-hectare (15-acre) area in Talisay town around Taal's crater rim that forms part of a 60,000-hectare (148,200-acre) protected area of the volcano.

It won the backing of the Talisay municipal council and the project was launched in November 2006.

Taal has erupted 33 times in the last 400 years, the last one being in 1977, and government experts at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology have expressed grave reservations about the project.

"Building a structure at the permanent danger zone (around the crater) should be prohibited because this will endanger lives," the institute's director, Renato Solidum, said at a recent public hearing on the project.

He said volcanic activity has increased in recent weeks with the frequency of volcanic quakes rising and with the crater island showing signs of bulging.

The environment and natural resources department said, amid protests from Talisay residents, that the building of viewing decks, an elevator and an access road did not necessarily violate the law on protected areas.

The protesters fear the project would displace some residents and damage their farms and fishing grounds.

The department suspended the project's e nvironmental clearance certificate last week and gave the company seven days to secure all permits, including from the seismology institute, and to revise aspects of the project.


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