SC won't stop stop ‘killer dam’ project in Iloilo-A A +A
Thursday, October 31, 2013
(Updated) ACTING Chief Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. issued a writ of kalikasan on Thursday ordering the government to comment on the petition seeking to stop the construction of the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP) in Iloilo for its alleged negative effects to the people and the environment.
Tasked to respond within 10 days on the petition filed by former Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco Jr. were the Department of Agriculture, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Agrarian Reform and project proponent Senate President Franklin Drilon.
Velasco's action, however, can either be sustained or rejected by the Supreme Court once it resumes session in November.
“The benefits offered by this project will be miniscule when compared to the disastrous effects it will inevitably cause,” said Syjuco, a staunch critic of Drilon.
Syjuco said the project will affect 17,000 indigenous people, assailing the Free Prior and Informed Consent conducted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) as “false, incomplete and misleading.”
He noted that the IPs were not informed of the project’s environmental impacts as contained in the study of Dr. Ricarte Salgado Javelosa Sr., the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Rapid Geohazard Assessment and militant group Advocate of Science and Technology for the People (Agham).
Worse, the dam may host predatory fish, malaria-carrying species and insects because it will supposedly kill the “upstream ecology of the dam from a free-flowing river ecosystem to an artificial slack-water reservoir habitat.”
“Changes in temperature, chemical composition, dissolved oxygen levels and the physical properties of a reservoir are not suitable to the aquatic plants and animals that evolved with a given river system,” the petition stated.
The petition added that the MGB’s Rapid Geohazard Assessment document declared areas in the downstream and those near the river as highly susceptible to flooding.
These areas consist of towns traversed by the river and 25 out of 55 villages in Calinog town.
“Having known that the area, where the Jalaur mega dam is to be constructed, is very susceptible to landslide with a high MGB Rapid Geohazard Assessment rating coupled with a finding of an active fault line, the project is literally a killer dam,” Syjuco said, as he called for the issuance of a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo).
Last year, Drilon allayed fears the dam is prone to massive damage that can be brought by movement of an active fault line. He said the dam is 11 kilometers away from the nearest active fault line in the area which is the West Panay Fault.
By comparison, the main and secondary dams in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija are approximately 5.5 and 3.1 kilometers, respectively, away from the Digdig Segment of the Philippine Fault.
“’Yung mga cases filed by Syjuco are absolutely baseless, and yet taking advantage of media exposure,” said Drilon in a phone interview on Wednesday.
JRMP, an irrigation facility designed with provisions for a hydroelectric power and bulk water supply, is supported by P8.95-billion development assistance from South Korea’s Export-Import Bank's Economic Cooperation Fund.
The government is expected to shell out P2.2 billion.
Once completed, the first large-scale reservoir dam outside of Luzon will provide uninterrupted irrigation water supply to 32,000 hectares of farm land and benefit more than 783,000 farmers.
This will increase the irrigated lands in Western Visayas by around 10 percent and the annual regional rice production by around five percent.
The dam is also expected to expand the production areas of sugarcane and other crops, supply electricity through the building of a 6.6-megawatt hydroelectric power plant, provide potable water for homes and industries and employ 17,000 people.
Drilon earlier said the project was mandated under Republic Act 2651 enacted by Congress in 1960.
The first phase consisted of rehabilitating the irrigation systems with an area of 22,340 hectares was completed in 1983.
But the second phase of the project was never implemented since 1988 due to lack of funds and interest on the part of the national government.
President Benigno Aquino III led the ceremonial groundbreaking in February. (Sunnex)