Stories below the waters of Panay mega dam

ILOILO City – Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Panay reiterates its stand that constructing the Jalaur mega dam in Calinog is not just indigenous peoples (IPs) concern specifically, but of the whole nation generally.

“Our opposition is in support to the IPs rights to self-determination and for the IMG_20150205_121040defense of their ancestral domain for the future generation. These are based on actual facts that the mega dam will not benefit the IPs but will even aggravate their dire situation of hunger and poverty,” BAYAN Panay chairperson Hope Hervilla said.

“This is every peoples’ concern since the project is funded directly through a loan from the Export-Import Bank of Korea and will be paid in the course of 40 to 50 years using the peoples money,” Hervilla added.

“In addition to the Php11.2 billion budget is the Php450 million interest in 50 years,” she added.

The Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP2) is perceived to (1) irrigate 31,840 hectares of land, (2) generate a 6.6 megawatts power source, and (3) supplement the potable water supply for domestic and industrial use in the province.

Non-realizable benefits, redundant services
“These benefits are way far from reality. Out of the 31,840 hectares, 22,340 hectares are already served by the five existing river irrigation systems of the province. The remaining 9,500 hectares is composed of 2,500 hectares of sugarcane plantation and 7,000 hectares of rice fields,” she added.

“The 7,000 hectares include the following – portions of the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan, the Ceres Terminal in Buhang and Camalig, Jaro, and mushrooming subdivisions in San Miguel, Sta. Barbara, Oton, and Pavia. Therefore, only about 3-5 hectares of land is left for irrigation by the mega dam,” she added.

“The provincial government even allocated Php41.48 million for small-scale irrigation projects that will boost agricultural production in 13 areas in Iloilo province, which are also service areas of the mega dam,” she added.

“We can see the redundancy here. And if it’s for agricultural production, the focus should be agricultural and farm inputs, post-production facilities and the rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems to achieve its full potential,” she added.

Ending water woes is putting an end to privatization
For the potable water supply, the group reiterated that the government should take over the Metro Iloilo Water District’s (MIWD) responsibility especially the water source ownership.

“Our conflict with the potable water is regards the ownership which is left to private concessions. The non-delivery of services is caused by privatizing this basic human rights to water and therefore must be stopped,” Hervilla added.

“This is also the end product of this mega dam. Management and delivery of services will be left to the sole discretion of private entities and corporate businesses for profit-merry making under the Public-Private Partnership,” she added.

“The result is inaccessibility to basic services because of high rates just like what happened to transportation, water and power systems in Metro Manila. Hence additional burden and misery to the people,” she added.

IP rights over development aggression
“These development projects continue to undermine the rights of Panayanon-Bukidnon tribe and will lead to the destruction of their lands, and livelihoods,” Hervilla said.

“IPs have long been living in these villages even before Spaniards came and continued to defend their lands for centuries now. Claiming their lands is tantamount to killing this nature-loving people and their roots, culture and traditions,” she furthered.

“The mountains, rivers, forests, and everything on the land is their life. They have been living peacefully and harmoniously until projects like this came and destroyed everything they have,” she said.

Downstream areas are not exempted from the threats of this mega dam. Even the 40 meter-high Moroboro dam in Dingle caused flooding to the municipalities of Calinog, Passi, San Enrique, Duenas, Dingle, Dumangas, Pototan, New Lucena and Zarraga. How much more the 106-meter main Jalaur dam, elevated higher for a few meters up in the mountains?

“Ilonggo lives are at stake here. Experiences in Luzon where mega dams are situated are living lessons that these large dams are doomed to fail and can cause even higher destruction to lives, productions and livelihoods more than it can generate,” she ended./ptlogo

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