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Mega dam debt and death trap

ILOILO CITY – We wish to be like Sen. Franklin Drilon ecstatically crowing on the proposed mega-dam in central Iloilo, his “gift” to Ilonggos that promises jobs, brisker agriculture activities, prosperity and what not.

Whenever we hear of mega dams, we are reminded of  disasters like Drilon’s earlier “gift” to Iloilo, the P120 million building called Iloilo Hall of Justice, built in 1992 and the only building thereabouts to be condemned and abandoned in the wake of the 5.5 magnitude quake of February 6, 2012.

Other buildings, much older ones erected in pre-war time yet, withstood the tremblor. Only the HOJ that Drilon now hisses whenever he hears grumblings against it, sustained cracks that disjoined beams from pillars, and sunk the walls, indicative of structural flaws.

The HOJ is a monument of corruption. Its materials used are substandard and its construction violates the specifications of the architect who designed it.

Now, the honorable senator brags that his present-day pet project is “earthquake proof”.

Near the dam lies the West Panay Fault, an earthquake bellt springing from San Joaquin town, 56 kilometers south of Iloilo City, and wounding up north extending to Nabas, Aklan Province, also on Panay Island.

People face grave peril should government persist in erecting a mega dam in central Iloilo. Lambunao, neighboring town of Calinog, was skipped in the project after its village elders opposed it, and rightly, because it (Lambunao) is the pathway of the earthquake belt.

At the forum, March 25, 2013, marking the founding of the alliance People’s Movement to Save Jalaur River, participants urge government to go for the safe and economical alternative of rehabilitating existing dams.

The forum was held at the audio visual room of the Universityof the Philippines in the Visayas and attended by students, Protestant pastors, faculty members, members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Panay), and Tumandok-Bukidnon representatives from Lambunao and Calinog towns.

Cynthia Deduro, a convenor, disclosed in power-point presentation their alternative proposal, one establishing “small scale community dams to benefit small farmers” and second,  rehabilitate existing dams.

The proposed mega-dam, called Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project II, to be erected in Brgy. Agcalaga, Calinog, costs P8.9 B in loan from the Korean Economic Cooperation Fund (KECF) plus P2.2 B Philippine counterpart.

That can’t be a “gift” neither from Drilon nor his big boss P-Noy. The 42-meter high, P11 B structure is a loan to be paid for, not by the duet, but by the Filipino people at the guaranteed interest to the creditor of P500 M.

Pardon this repetition, it will be Filipino taxpayers, not Drilon nor PNoy, who will shoulder the burden of repaying the country’s loans.

That can’t be a gift because it is another round of borrowing on top of the $62.9 B loan Filipino debt trap as of March 2012.

The Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project I, began in pre-war yet and rehabilitated in 1984-1990, is a series of five small dams in Moroboro (Dingle town), Daja (Maasin), Sta. Barbara, Jalaur-Suague (Januiay) and Igtambo (San Miguel, also called “Aganan-Sta. Barbara RIS Dam). Its service area totals 22,340 hectares.

Siltation of the canals and the dams itself over the years has cut its coverage area down to almost one-half.

“The dams and their canals need dredging,” notes  Deduro, convenor of  People’s Movement to Save Jalaur River. “The NIA (National Irrigation Authority) continue to charge service fees to farmers though the latter’s farms don’t get irrigation water.”

The JRMPP II entails submersion of agricultural lands, which means, displacement of inhabitants mostly the indigenous Tumandok-Bukidnon, who, will likely not take their mass dispossession sitting down.

As one professor of the University of the Philippines in the Vizayas puts it, the indigenous communities, declared by government “national heritage” or repository of ancient culture on Panay Island, will be uprooted by the dam. “It is like decimating our culture”, she adds.

We see resistance ahead against the mega dam, a debt and death trap.


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