Critics of the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II) gathered last July 18 at JRMP II conference room for a dialogue. Various civic groups such as Jalaur River for the People’s Movement (JRPM), Tumanduk Inc., and Bayan Panay attended the said meeting. There were also foreign civic groups present.
In a letter sent to National Irrigation Administration Region 6 (NIA R6), the group sought to present to the agency the result of the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) they conducted earlier that week.
Issues presented include project’s structural integrity, lack of consultations, geological and seismological conditions of the area.
NIA Legal Counsel, Atty. Michael Margarico, explained that the same issues were raised by former second district congressman Augusto Syjuco. To note, the former solon had this argument in court when he filed a Writ of Kalikasan with prayer for Temporary Environmental Protection Order against NIA.
“The issue raised was settled with finality, and in so far as legal aspect of the case, that decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) is already binding...we can give you the copy of the decision,” Atty. Margarico said.
He added that it took more than two years for the court to carefully study the arguments presented by both parties. Apart from the evidences and arguments, various experts and the Indigenous Peoples (IP) themselves were consulted. The CA eventually ruled in favor of NIA and against the project critics.
Atty. Margarico further disclosed that, during the court hearings, the government represented by NIA, was backed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and geologist from Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). Studies from these agencies regarding the areas where the dam will be constructed were presented to the court.
As for the issue of failure of consultation with the members of the IP, series of hearings led to the CA’s discovery that such assertion was false. This, as findings revealed that all the 16 Barangays were duly informed of the project.
Ruth Cely Jamelo, Supervising Institutional Development Officer and Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) team leader, explained that extensive consultations were made to the 16 directly and indirectly affected Barangays.
“We did not even notice the construction of high-rise buildings in the metropolis because for the longest period of time we were in the upland communities,” Jamelo said.
She further explained that the consent of the IP community was freely given because they were consulted and were left alone to decide whether or not to accept the project.
No less than the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples en banc, in their resolution to grant a Certification Pre-Condition (CP) acknowledged that the FPIC was done of strong adherence to the FPIC Administrative Order 03 series of 2012. The en banc eventually issued the CP for project implementation to NIA on August 11, 2015.
In fact, on June 30, IP leaders went to Iloilo Provincial Capitol to furnish Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. a copy of their letter to President Rodrigo Duterte. The IP group appealed to fast track the implementation of the JRMP II.
The construction of JRMP will bring development to their community, the group said, alongside progress to the entire province. JRMP II will also bring ample supply of water for irrigation, increase production of rice, employment opportunities during project construction, bulk water supply, hydroelectric power supply, mitigate flooding in the Municipality of Calinog and nearby towns and promote eco- cultural tourism. /JP (Ramon C. Salvilla, CDA II)