ILOILO – It took blood, sweat and tears for the P11.2-billion Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP II) to finally commence, according to Ilonggo senator Franklin Drilon who led the project’s groundbreaking yesterday in Barangay Agcalaga, Calinog town.
But it would be all worth it when the dam finally becomes operational in 2022 and makes this province a model of rural development, he said.
“We had to overcome countless roadblocks, too many to enumerate, to get here today,” Drilon lamented.
Some parties, for their own agenda, tried to stop this project, he said such as the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan.
“For two years, I had to personally defend, together with the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), the construction of this project in the Court of Appeals,” Drilon recalled.
In addition, even as Senate President then, Drilon said he had to beg for two years with the National Commission on Indigenous People before it issued the Free Prior Informed Consent to allow the construction of the dam.
JRMP started in 1960s after the fourth Congress passed Republic Act 2651 which mandated its construction. 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.
Drilon said JRMP II can help arrest the decline in agricultural productivity in Western Visayas.
From an impressive 17.9 percent growth in 2011, the agriculture sector had a negative growth rate of 1.8 percent in 2015 and further contracted by a negative 0.5 percent in 2016.
“It’s very alarming,” said Drilon, emphasizing that 40 percent of the labor force in the region is engaged in agriculture and fisheries.
Much is expected from JRMP II, which is eyed to be completed by September 2022. Drilon said it would:
* improve the lives of 25,000 farmers
* provide 17,000 jobs during its construction in the next three years
* double rice production to nearly 300,000 metric tons per year
* irrigate 32,000 hectares in 22 municipalities and two cities in Iloilo
* improve the average yield of farmlands to 5.2 metric tons per hectare
* provide 86,400 cubic meters of potable water daily
* generate 6.6 megawatts of hydroelectric power
When completed, Drilon said, the province of Iloilo will become a model of rural development, just as Iloilo City today is a model of urban development.
The mega dam’s construction is a fulfillment of the Ilonggos’ “impossible dream”, according to Drilon, currently the Senate minority leader.
JRMP II is the biggest single public infrastructure project in the history of Iloilo, he stressed, and a flagship project of NIA in the Visayas.
It would be the largest water reservoir outside Luzon when completed.
“This project did not come easy,” said Drilon, “Negotiating with the Korean government was the easy part.”
It was Drilon who personally worked on the funding of the multi-purpose dam when he went to Seoul, Korea in April 2011.
The Korean government, through the Export-Import Bank’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund, extended a loan for $208 million under its Official Development Assistance (ODA) program.
The loan agreement was signed in 2012.
“I am proud to have played a role in making this project possible,” said Drilon.
In April 2011 he went to Seoul, South Korea to personally work on the funding. The Korean government found merit in the Philippine government’s request, and extended, through the Export-Import Bank’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund, a loan.
“This is the biggest loan extended by the Korean government for a single project, worldwide. The loan agreement carried an interest rate of 0.015 percent. Let me repeat that for emphasis. I am not aware of any other ODA loan of the same interest rate,” said Drilon./PN