THE Supreme Court thumbed down an P11-billion dam project in Iloilo in the wake of a petition for a writ of kalikasan sought by former-lawmaker Augusto Syjuco Jr. of Iloilo who opposed the project which may displace thousands of residents and starve hundreds of poor and marginalized Ilongos.
Acting Chief Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. issued the writ.
In his petition, Syjuco claimed that the construction of Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project will displace 17,000 indigenous people living in the affected areas.
The P11-billion project seeks to upgrade the existing irrigation systems from 22,000 to 31,840 hectares farmland for a year round irrigation, supplement the power supply in the province through the building of a 6.6 megawatt hydroelectric power plant, augment the supply of good quality and potable water for domestic and industrial consumption, mitigate flood, promote eco-tourism, and generate employment for 17,000 workers during construction.
Syjuco said he filed the petition to oppose the continued implementation of the so-called Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project–Phase II (JRMP-II). “The benefits offered by this project will be minuscule when compared to the disastrous effects it will inevitably cause,” it said.
“In the JRMP Phase II, the Free Prior and Informed Consent conducted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples [NCIP] and the National Irrigation Administration [NIA] were false, incomplete and misleading,” the petition read.
“The Indigenous People were presented with a promise of a better future and possible benefits. The horrendous environmental impact as contained in the expert study Dr. Ricarte Salgado Javelosa Sr., the MGB Rapid Geohazard Assessment and Agham (Advocate of Science and Technology for the People) were deliberately concealed from them.
Tribes living in the three affected barangays in Calinog that will be submerged are holders of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles. As such, under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts (IPRA) they cannot be dislocated from their homes because their concept of ownership sustains the view that ancestral domains and all resources found therein shall serve as the material bases of their cultural integrity.”
In November 24, 2011, the memorandum of understanding for the planned construction of Stage 2 of JRMP was signed by the Agriculture secretary and president of the Korea Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank).
On March 22, 2012, the National Economic and Development Authority Board, chaired by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, approved JRMP Phase II.
On 21 February 2013, Aquino, assisted by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Gov. Art Defensor Sr. of Iloilo and Sen. Franklin Magtunao Drilon, headed the ceremonial capsule-laying of the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Stage II at the Provincial Capitol Building of Iloilo in Iloilo City.
But Syjuco pointed out that the project would trigger the killing of many fish and other aquatic species, the disappearance of birds in the floodplains of the second district and the cities of Passi and Iloilo.
“The construction of Jalaur Mega Dam will destroy the natural hydrologic system of the Jalaur River. It will lower the base level of the river and stop recharge of fresh water into the surrounding floodplains of the Second District, Passi City and Iloilo City,” he said.
“Worst and obvious impact of the Jalaur Mega dam is habitat destruction. It will destroy and 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 added that another study was conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Rapid Geohazard Assessment document declared areas in the downstream and those near the Jalaur River as highly susceptible to flooding.