Lipa archbishop says Taal spa project ‘illegal, immoral’

By Marlon Alexander Luistro
Southern Luzon Bureau
Last updated 04:36pm (Mla time) 06/29/2007

LIPA CITY, Philippines — Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said on Friday afternoon that the spa resort being developed by Korean firm Jung Ang Interventure at the Taal Volcano crater in Talisay, Batangas didn’t even undergo proper consultations in the community.


Arguelles is pushing for total stoppage to the project, which he claimed to be “illegal and immoral,” and would destroy the beauty of Taal Volcano.


“The project is unacceptable because of the damage it will do to ecological balance,” he said.


Arguelles presented before journalists the copy of a certification issued by Provincial Secretary Benjamin Nepales attesting that “no ordinance pertaining to any development and reclassification of land located at Taal Volcano Island was received by his office as required by the Local Government Code.”


Signed last Friday, the certification also said that no ordinance has been included in any of the calendar of business sessions, nor a committee referral done on the matter.


Neither was there any meeting called for a public hearing on the project, said Nepales.


The provincial board also did not review any municipal ordinance approving the development and reclassification of the Taal Volcano Island, he added.


“There is no legal basis that may allow any development and/or reclassification in the area,” said the provincial secretary.


In an interview, Talisay Mayor Florencio Manimtim said the spa was being built on a six-hectare crater area that a local landowner sold to Korean investor Jung Ang.


The Filipino landowner has land titles dating back to the Spanish colonial era, Manimtim said.


Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes issued a suspension order on the spa project. He noted that the proponent violated seven conditions of their Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).


Earlier interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Reyes said the construction of access road was not included in the ECC and that the Korean firm failed to secure the required clearances from the different government agencies and local government units.


Last weekend, hundreds of farmers, fishermen and locals residing around the island volcano conducted a two-day protest rally to show their disgust over the construction of the spa and wellness center.


The protesters, led by the group Samahan ng mga Maralitang Mamamayan sa Palibot ng Lawa ng Taal (Samataal, Organization of Poor People Around Taal Lake), said the project would not only destroy the rich natural resources of the volcano but would also kill the livelihood of more than 6,000 residents of the eight villages in the area.


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