Note: This is a condensed version of an October 2012 briefer by the Jalaur River for the People Movement.
The Jalaur Mega Dam project, which is planned for construction in Calinog, Iloilo, is a new threat to the cultural rights, land, and lives of the indigenous people of Central Panay and all the peoples of Panay in general.
While the Aquino regime claims that this will improve irrigation, provide additional electric power, augment potable water supply, mitigate flood, and promote eco-tourism, it is not difficult to see the adverse effects of the project.
It is also not difficult to see the real interests the mega dam serves and the need for the people of Panay to oppose its construction.
Four barangays will be directly affected by the construction of the proposed Jalaur mega dam. Barangay Agcalaga, Masaroy, and Garangan in the municipality of Calinog and barangay Tampucao in the municipality of Lamubano will be totally submerged.
Seven more barangays in the upstream area of the dam, which along with the four barangays that will be submerged are home to the Tumandok indigenous peoples of Central Panay, will moreover be indirectly disturbed by the dam.
A total of 15,000 Tumandoks in these barangays and surrounding areas will be dislocated from their ancestral lands, threatening their culture, lives and livelihood. There are also neither clear relocation sites nor any concrete and long term program that will address their displacement.
Despite of this, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the National Irrigation Administration were able to secure the “Free Prior and Informed Consent” of the Tumandoks only by enticing them with the “benefits” of the project without presenting its grave dangers.
West Panay Fault line
The proposed mega-dam is sitting little more than 11 kilometers away from the West Panay fault line which caused one of the most destructive earthquakes in the island of Panay in 1948. This quake damaged 55 churches, 17 of which have totally collapsed and 20 beyond repair.
Based on the records of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), another intensity 9 earthquake hit the island of Panay in 1620 that changed the course of Aklan River and damaged stone churches and facades in Passi City.
Another earthquake with magnitude 7.1, also hit the island in June 14, 1990 at a depth of 15km with 7 persons perished and 31 others injured.
Meanwhile, a Mines and Geosciences Bureau Rapid Geohazard Assessment of Barangay Agcalaga in Calinog also reveals that the area where the mega dam is to be constructed is highly susceptible to landslides.
Residents of the towns of Barotac Nuevo, Calinog, Dingle, Dueñas, Dumangas, Pototan, and Zarraga and the city of Passi which the 123-kilometer long Jalaur River traverses are particularly prone to the dangers of flooding once the dam is constructed.
Dam operators keep higher levels of water in the dam to make the hydroelectric turbines operate better but open the floodgates once the water volume threatens to break the dam. Heavy rains are hence a frequent occasion for massive flooding in communities downstream of the dam.
The reverse is true in times of drought, wherein the higher level of water needed to operate the turbines diverts the limited water from the downstream water channels into the dam.
The Bayan Muna Party-list has filed a resolution in the House of Representatives seeking an onsite public hearing on the safety of the Jalaur mega dam project in the light of these dangers.
P8.96 billion of the P11.2 billion total budget for the Jalaur mega dam will be funded using loans from the Korean Export-Import Bank serving as Official Development Assistance (ODA) of the South Korean government. This will be an additional debt burden for the Filipino people as the government passes on these debts to the people by raising taxes.
Worse, many dam projects around the world have high actual construction costs compared to the original approximations because of the unrelenting increase in the prices of construction materials brought about by the unabated oil price hikes and the intensifying economic crisis afflicting the country and the whole world.
The high interest rates on our foreign loans ensure that foreign monopoly capital continues to accumulate profits while the Philippine economy continues to bleed financially and remain dependent on them.
The monopoly capitalists ensure that we only get commodities and services related to the dam from them. The multinational corporations from countries where the loans are taken out also provide the construction firms, construction supplies and machineries, as well as technical personnel for the project.
Human Rights Violations
The local big business, landlords and corrupt government officials serve as the local partners and conduits of the foreign monopoly capitalists by facilitating the entry of the project into the country through laws, policies, programs and contracts.
They spin promises of development and benefits for the people. But as resistance broadens and intensifies, they will employ more and more repressive violence as their deceptions are exposed and opposed by the people.
Already there is an increased military presence in the area where the dam will be built. The local government of Calinog has also setup the Kabayan Action Group, a paramilitary group which includes retired army and police members that will serve to guard the dam construction.
The militarization of the area will continue until the actual dam construction, posing a grave danger to those opposed to the Jalaur dam, just like the murder of Macli-ing Dulag in the struggle against the Chico Dam in the Cordillera back in the 1980s.
People, Not Profits
The overall impact of the Jalaur mega dam only shows that this project only serves the interests of the international banks, multinational corporations in construction and energy, local big landlords, bourgeois comprador and corrupt government officials.
We have no other choice but to unite against the Jalaur mega dam in defense of our rights and interests. We must expose the harmful effects of the construction of the Jalaur dam – from flooding, environmental destruction, loss of livelihood, and militarization – to the widest number of people. We must get support for the Tumandok communities that will be directly displaced by the project.
We must oppose the real interests that the dam serves. We must shun the foreign-dominated economic model imposed by foreign banks and governments on our people.
Instead, let us put forward a program of genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization that will ensure a truly independent and self-reliant economy that will benefit the people, especially the toiling masses of workers, peasants, and indigenous peoples.
Church people, members of the academe, professionals, local government officials, and various other sectors have joined the broad anti-Jalaur dam network named the Jalaur River for the People Movement.
Only by arousing, organizing, and mobilizing the widest number of people against the construction of the Jalaur dam can we ensure the defense of our lives.
Oppose the Jalaur Mega Dam Project!
Defend the People’s Lives!