By Billy Javier Reyes and Gerry Albert Corpuz
ILOILO CITY – More than 80 foreign and local participants to the International Conference on Fisheries and Globalization (IFCG) from 15 countries in Asia, Europe, South Africa and South America today asked Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to scrap the P 11.2 billion dam project in Iloilo citing its catastrophic impact to indigenous people, farmers and fishing villages.
In a joint press statement, conference organizers Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Ibon International and the Panay based Fisheries and Marine Environment Research Institute (FMERI) said President Aquino should immediately recall the project which they said might erase a huge part of Panay Island from the map and cause heavy damage to agriculture and fisheries because the project is within a major faultline and would spell great damage in the event of a strong earthquake.
Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap and initiator of the International Fisherfolk and fish Workers Coalition (IFWC) said the P 11.2 billion Jalaur River Multpurpose Project-Stage 2 is inviting a major disaster. He urged President Aquino to recall the project with the South Korean government, which the latter would fund through its Export-Import Bank's Economic Cooperation Fund.
The South Korean government will provide a $203-million official development assistance while the Philippine government’s counterpart fund amounted to P2.2 billion. Senator Franklin Drilon, one of the supporters of the project had said the two-phase project will involve the construction of a 102-meter dam and 6.6-megawatt hydropower plant.
The Ilongo senator said the project would help increase Iloilo’s rice self-sufficiency by raising production from 141,495 metric tons to 287,958 tons per annum and sugarcane from 112,250 metric tons to 150,000 metric tons per annum.
He said the project is expected to benefit over 24,000 farmers in the province. Drilon argued that project, which will begin next year and set to be completed in 2016, will also increase water supply for domestic and industrial use by an additional 86,400 cubic meters per day for the city and neighboring communities for the next 30 years. The lawmaker added that the construction of the dame would generate at least 17,000 jobs.
"Mr. Drilon is talking of 11 billion peso investments and 17,000 jobs, but the the real score is that this project will wipe out tens of thousands of indigenous farmers, poor peasants and small-fisherfolk from their communties and source of subsisence. I
Is that the way the good senator equates development? How about the great deluge of flood it would bring to the entire people of Panay in the near future?", said Hicap. Pamalakaya said the opposition against the Jalaur dam in Iloilo will also be supported by other fisherfolk organizatiosn and NGO fisheries from Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia,. India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Chile, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Mauritania.