ILOILO City – Security will be tight in the hinterland barangay of Agcalaga in Calinog, Iloilo today for the groundbreaking of the P11.2-billion Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP II).
New People’s Army (NPA) rebels have been sighted in the area and two adjacent barangays, Cahigon and Alibunan.
“Alam namin na ang NPA strong ‘yung opposition sa project,” said Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, director of the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6).
The deployment of policemen would be extensive.
As early as November last year Mayor Alex Centena asked the PRO-6 to deploy more policemen to his municipality.
JRMP II, said to be the biggest dam outside Luzon, is expected to provide uninterrupted irrigation water to 32,000 hectares of Iloilo farmland, benefit more than 783,000 farmers and increase annual production of rice to 300,000 metric tons from 140,000.
Three months ago over 10 contractors of Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co., Ltd. started building their barracks and motor pool in Calinog.
“I want to ensure the safety of the contractors. I could not be complacent,” said Centena.
Heavy equipment such as dump trucks, bulldozers and backhoes must also be secured, he added.
“Wala sila sang permanent nga security. Ti karon kun ano matabo sa ila, sin-o ang basulon? Kami nga local officials,” said Centena.
According to Steve Cordero, information officer of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Region 6, Ilonggo senator Franklin Drilon is leading the groundbreaking together with Secretary Michael Diño of the Office of the President for Visayas and officials of the Korea Export-Import Bank that is funding the project.
JRMP II includes the construction of 109-meter Jalaur high dam; a 38.5-meter afterbay dam; a 10-meter Alibunan catch dam; a 80.74-kilometer high line canal; generation of new areas for irrigation; and rehabilitation of existing irrigation system.
The Philippine Army has deployed personnel to Calinog but Centena said stay-in police forces would further beef-up the security of construction people and equipment.
Cause-oriented groups tried to stop the project. Last year, representatives of the Tumandok Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Calinog, the Jalaur River for the People’s Movement and Dagsaw Panay and Guimaras Indigenous People’s Network flew to South Korea and campaigned unsuccessfully against the mega dam.
The dam’s construction is expected to generate jobs to around 17,000 workers composed of engineers, carpenters, welders, masons, and drivers of heavy equipment.
As a multipurpose project, the project 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.
In July 2016 the Jalaur River for the People’s Movement, an alliance composed of environmental advocates, peoples’ organizations, church people, members of the academe and indigenous people’s organizations, launched an international solidarity mission against the mega dam project.
It claimed the project will directly affect 16 IP communities, nine of which will be totally submerged in water.
It also warned of adverse ecological impacts.
The main infrastructure, according to the group, would be located 11 kilometers from the active Western Panay Fault which caused a strong earthquake in Panay Island in 1948./PN