ILOILO City – The local anti-dam alliance Jalaur River for the Peoples’ Movement (JRPM) is not welcome and will never welcome any mega dam to be built in Panay island.
In a statement sent to the media on Monday, JRPM convenor Reylan Vergara said that the Jalaur dam has been strongly opposed since 2011 by local indigenous peoples Tumandok and various advocates because of its effect to the livelihood and lives of Ilonggos in upstream and downstream areas.
“Lives are at stake here. The tumandoks have already lost their livelihoods, houses and their ancestral lands due to access road and canal construction, but without just and proper compensation,” Vergara said.
“Some have only received a little over a thousand pesos despite hundreds of square meters damage to their lands and farms. Where is development and justice here?” Vergara asked.
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) Visayas officer-in-charge Engr. Oscar Tababa declared last Friday, March 18, that “the mega dam to be constructed in Calinog, Iloilo may not be enough to ensure sufficient supply of water in Panay Island.”
Engr. Tababa was referring to the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP2) to be constructed in Jalaur River, the 2nd largest river system in Panay.
“You are a rice-producing region. Kailangan maraming tubig for irrigation. Siguro isang dam is not enough, kailangan pa ng isa,” Tababa said in an interview with Panay News.
“This is what we have been telling the NIA all along. The Jalaur dam will not reach its perceived targets and will fail. The engineer’s statement is a recognition that the dam will never reach its goals,” said Vergara.
The Jalaur mega dam aims to upgrade the existing irrigation system coverage specifically in Iloilo from 22,000 hectares to 31,840 hectares of farmland. The goal is to increase rice production even during dry spells.
“These farmlands which are service areas of the Jalaur dam are no longer feasible. Areas in Zarraga, Leganes, Pavia, Sta. Barbara, Oton and San Miguel are already thickening with subdivisions and other industrial construction. As for Cabatuan, it was already covered by the Iloilo International Airport,” Vergara explained.
Meanwhile in various areas of the country, dams have caused inundation and destruction of farms and infrastructures during rainy season while dam decommissioning has been going on for a long time in the international level.
“Large dams in a world view have been decommissioned because of its non-delivery of services as promised and have only caused problems like ethnocide or the eradication of various IP tribes.”
“We demand from the government to re-channel instead the budget to basic social services which are most needed by our people,” added Vergara.
“The P11 billion can already build school buildings and hospital facilities for our IPs. The budget can also be used to develop the farming system of our farmers such as farm tools and equipment and rehabilitate water irrigation systems,” Vergara said.
“Dams are not the answer for improving rice production, water shortage and power. What we need is genuine land reform for our farmers to have their land to till and mechanization of our agriculture system, and national industrialization for job opportunities for our people.”
“Small cascading dams are also viable. Series of small dams is less destructive, and can be managed by our communities more efficiently rather than giving it for free to private concessionaires who are profit-driven and not service oriented,” Vergara ended.
The multibillion Jalaur dam after construction will be managed by private business through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) while the Filipino people shall suffer the payment of the loan for 30 years with more than P500 million interest equivalent./PT