ILOILO City – With the capacity to augment agricultural production and stimulate agri-industrial activities not only in Western Visayas but throughout the country, the P11.2-billion Jalaur River Multipurpose Project – Stage II (JRMP II) in Calinog, Iloilo is a game changer, according to Ilonggo senator Franklin Drilon.
After several delays, the mega dam’s groundbreaking is finally pushing through tomorrow in Barangay Agcalaga, Calinog.
The Senate minority leader, who sought funding for the JRMP II from the South Korean government in 2011, will lay a time capsule.
According to National Irrigation Administration (NIA) regional manager Gerardo Corsiga, President Rodrigo Duterte had been asked to lead the groundbreaking but there was no word yet from Malacañang if the country’s chief executive could make it.
Stalled for more than three decades, the mega dam project could boost declining agricultural productivity. Drilon said production suffered primarily due to poor infrastructure “that has stymied the growth of the agriculture sector.”
When completed, the JRMP II would be the biggest dam outside Luzon.
Corsiga said also invited to the groundbreaking were South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-Man, officials of the Korea Export-Import Bank, Secretary Michael Diño of the Office of the President for Visayas, and Secretary Emmanuel Piñol of the Department of Agriculture, among others.
The groundbreaking may have been delayed but what is more important is the certainty of the project’s construction and eventual completion, said Corsiga, because farmers needed water to irrigate their lands and boost production.
JRMP II was first implemented in 1960s after the fourth Congress passed Republic Act 2651 which provided for the construction of the JRMP in Iloilo. Its first phase was completed in the 1980s but its second phase was derailed due to lack of funds.
JRMP II includes the construction of a 109-meter Jalaur high dam, 38.5-meter afterbay dam, 10-meter Alibunan catch dam, 80.74-kilometer high line canal; generation of new areas for irrigation; and rehabilitation of existing irrigation system.
When fully completed, JRMP II is expected to increase Iloilo’s annual production of rice to 300,000 metric tons from 140,000 metric tons, thereby contributing to the country’s rice production target of 7.6 percent.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Drilon said the lower-than-target 6.2 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018 was partly due to decline in the agriculture sector, which repeatedly posted dismal performance last year at 1.1 percent in the first quarter, 0.3 percent in the second quarter, negative 0.2 percent in the third quarter, and 1.7 percent in Q4.
From a share of 9.6 percent in 2011, the agriculture sector’s share to GDP decreased to 6.8 percent in 2018, according to the senator.
“I hope that the administration would really prioritize the construction of agricultural facilities similar to Jalaur in its Build, Build, Build program because only then we will be able to move closer to our goal of rice self-sufficiency, improve our overall agricultural production, and ultimately bring development to rural areas, while helping address problems of poverty and food security,” said Drilon.
Even Iloilo, considered the food basket and rice granary of Western Visayas, also experienced decline in agricultural outputs, he observed.
From a growth rate of 17.9 percent in 2010 to 2011, agriculture in Western Visayas contracted in 2014 to 2016 with successive negative growth rates of 1.8 percent and 0.5 percent. It was only in 2016-2017 that it rebounded to 10.8 percent, said Drilon.
Hence, Drilon said the “game-changer” JRMP II, funded through P8.95-billion official development assistance from Korean government’s EXIM bank and the government’s counterpart fund of P2.2 billion, has the capacity to augment agricultural production and stimulate agri-industrial activities, not only in Western Visayas but throughout the country.
“Our goal in pushing for JRMP II is to provide year-round irrigation to 31,840 hectares of farmlands in Iloilo, so the province and the whole of Western Visayas can become the country’s rice granary once more,” Drilon said.
As a multipurpose project, Jalaur will also provide benefits such as flood mitigation and control, the promotion of eco-tourism in selected reservoir areas, and serve as possible source of power supply.
The project will also generate approximately 17,000 local jobs equivalent to P1.3 billion in basic wages per year, said Drilon./PN