Irrigation for the Peasant, Cheap and Safe Water and Power for All

Statement of the NDFP Panay against the Jalaur mega dam

ILOILO City – Up to now, apologists of the Jalaur River Dam II project are scrambling to justify the construction of their costly, dangerous, over-hyped but under-achieving structure. The latest attempt is by one, Councilor Renato Casinao, of Calinog town, the site of the project, asking President Rody Duterte to continue funding the more than P12 billion dam for another 4 years including interest to be paid up for the South Korean loan spent for the project.

The Aquino regime approved and procured foreign loans for the Jalaur River Dam project primarily to award patronage funds (skimmed from the project) to Liberal Party cohorts in Iloilo. With just the construction of initial roads needed for the Dam’s construction, local bureaucrats and their favored contractors have already enriched themselves. These are the people behind and funding the so-called Hugpong Jalaur and ‘indigenous people’s organization’ belatedly set up to petition for the Dam’s construction even when the project was hastily approved without prior consent by the upland people of Calinog.

The Dam project itself will only be an oversized -water reservoir. The upper Jalaur water source mainly relied on to feed the Dam and in combination with the Ulian and Suage Rivers, could not even provide water for the downstream farms of towns like Pototan, Barotac Nuevo, Dumanggas and Zarraga during the recent El Nino drought or even on ordinary dry season events. Even more so will it fail to irrigate the 31,000 hectares of farmlands as claimed by the proponents, a large portion of which is beyond the Jalaur River Basin.

The Dam’s proponents failed to take into consideration the effects of weather extremes afflicting the country and Panay. Still to commence is the La Nina event bringing torrential rains and massive flooding. The sparse trees of upper Calinog would be no match for the inundation of the lower stretch of Jalaur as shown by the flood of Typhoon Frank in 2008. The massive flood occurred even with no La Nina event. The Plaza of Calinog was even drowned in water and the municipal building was isolated with the flood.

Future rainfalls are expected to be heavier, easily filling up big dams. Again, a full Dam will always overflow or as always the case, water will be released. This is the claimed flood control of dams, which is nothing but so much hot air as shown by the experiences with Dams of Luzon during floods. Even then, more disastrous to the downstream city and towns will be the collapse of the Dam during an overdue big earthquake like Caycay in 1948 when so many churches collapsed.

The Jalaur Dam will not benefit most peasants who are supposedly be additionally covered by the irrigation of Jalaur Dam. On the contrary, it will destroy the farms and homes of thousands of upland Calinog peasants and can pose a disaster to downstream communities.

The Duterte administration has programmed food sufficiency in 2 years’ time. It cannot wait for four years or longer to have a Jalaur River Dam constructed and to start operation and be able to contribute to food production. As it is, the Dam’s construction has been delayed because of popular protest, the upland farmers’ opposition and major environmental concerns making the Dam’s South Korean lender rethink its position. The onset of the rainy season and La Nina could further delay its construction.

We call on the Duterte Administration to cancel the construction of the Jalaur River Dam.

In its stead, numerous smaller dams can be put up all over Panay and even the Visayas for the cost that would ultimately be incurred in the construction of Jalaur Dam. Similar dams have been put up in Bugasong (Antique), Madalag (Aklan) and Maayon (Capiz). The small-scale dams can be put up within a year, at a lesser cost per volume of water delivered in places nearer to farms where they are needed. They will be safer, and will not displace nor destroy the communities where the dams will be constructed. Importantly, they will be quickly operational to ensure increased food production in a year’s time.

However, attaining food sufficiency, requires more than improving food crop production by means of better seeds, free irrigation, capital for cost of production, fair market access, support prices, and farm mechanization. Food sufficiency will depend on genuine land reform that breaks up the land monopoly ownership by big landlords. Genuine land reform will also break up usury and the monopoly of capital, sale of farm inputs and market for farm produce by big comprador usurers like the Binondo cartel for rice. Panay is a surplus food producer and supply food to the rest of the country and yet it cannot feed a big portion of its populace.

Food sufficiency also demands that the local food producers are shielded from the ravages of wanton free market competition by advanced world food producers as what many other countries practice to ensure food security. The notion that food sufficiency means simply importing food produce for our needs must be rejected.

Food sufficiency also requires that every person will have access to his/her daily food needs. Panay is a surplus producer of rice and fish and some other food products, yet a hunger and malnutrition afflict a big portion of its peasants who are the very food producers as well as many of its workers. Such access can only be realized if the wealth controlled by a few will be distributed thus the necessity for the dismantling of land, capital and market monopoly. Only a conscious and organized people can attain the said dispensation. Only a national democratic revolution can achieve food for all and all other necessities to live a decent life./PT