55 years ago, members of the Fourth Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act (RA) 2651 otherwise known as the “An act providing for the construction of the Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project in the Province of Iloilo and Governing its operation after its completion.”
The law specifically provides that law “There shall be constructed at the Jalaur River in the Province of Iloilo, based on plans and specifications duly approved by the Secretary of Public Works and Communications, a multi-purpose project, to be known as the Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project, hereinafter called the Project, for the purposes of regulating and controlling floods caused by the Jalaur River, storing its waters and using them to irrigate agricultural lands in the Jalaur Valley, and generating and transmitting electric power and energy.”
The date was June 18, 1960 during the incumbency of President Carlos P. Garcia, House Speaker Daniel Romualdez and Senate President Eulogio Rodriguez. What happened thereafter was a project lull that lasted a good 52 years from the passage of the law and 30 years from the completion of its first stage in 1982.
Everything changed under the Aquino Administration when on August 9, 2012 the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project was brought back to life. The Government of South Korea and the Republic of the Philippines signed the Loan agreement for the project.
Thus 55 years today, hopes are very high with the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for the implementation of what now stands as the biggest irrigation project in Iloilo.
Dubbed “Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II)”, the project is the very first large-scale reservoir dam outside Luzon.
“In 1960 our national leaders have seen the clear potential of the Jalaur River for multi-purpose use such as irrigation, power, potable water and flood control” said NIA 6 regional manager and concurrent JRMP II project manager Engineer Gerardo P. Corsiga. “Exactly 55 years later, here we are working for the completion of its second stage which we consider to be the heart of economic development in the city and province of Iloilo…We have high hopes the project will be implemented this November.”
JRMP II will provide year-round irrigation to 31, 840 hectares of farm land and increase annual rice production from 140, 000 to 300, 000 metric tons. Further, it will contribute to the national rice self-sufficiency target of 7.6 percent.
Also, its 6.6 megawatts hydroelectric power and bulk water component will augment the province’s and the city’s demand for power and potable water. And finally, the generation of employment opportunities during construction and eco-cultural tourism in the areas it covers particularly the hinterlands of Calinog.
In his speech during the 117thPhilippine Independence Day Celebration in Iloilo, President Benigno C. Aquino III emphasized JRMP as a major undertaking that was conceptualized during the time of his birth but was left unfulfilled until his administration. “If this project was completed long before we came into office, how many thousands of farmers could have benefitted and could have had better lives because of working irrigation?” he posed.
Earlier this month, Ilonggo leader and staunch JRMP II supporter Senate President Franklin M. Drilon pronounced support and prayers of the highest Iloilo Catholic leader, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, for the project. Manager Corsiga welcomed the support saying “the Archbishop’s blessing and backing signifies his support not only to NIA but to our farmers, our IPs and all Ilonggos who are looking up to this project as a long-term solution to our problems in water, power and food security.”
Also, Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) full consent for project implementation was secured by NIA last April 2015. Elders of the 16 IP barangays covered by the project signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). The FPIC is mandated under R.A. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). The Issuance of the Certificate of Pre-Condition is now for the deliberation of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) En Banc this month.
An Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) was secured for the project and a Land Acquisition and Resettlement Action Plan (LARAP) was prepared to address environmental and relocation concerns.
With plans and programs in place, support of national leaders, government agencies and project stakeholders and concurrence of the banking institution, Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) the project is expected to commence within the year.
Branded as “Partner in Progress”, the project is a much-deserved and much-needed development for every Ilonggo family. /JP (Steve E. Cordero, PRO C)