The ceremonial groundbreaking for the PHP11.2-billion Jalaur River Multipurpose Project (JRMP) II in Calinog, Iloilo, the largest dam outside Luzon, was held yesterday.
The event at Barangay Agcalaga, Calinog, organized by the National Irrigation Administration, was led by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon who championed the implementation of JRMP II.
"It took blood, sweat, and tears to get to where we are today. Some parties, for their own agenda, tried to block this project," Drilon said in his speech, adding that the implementation of the "game-changer dam" is a "fulfillment of the impossible dream of the Ilonggos".
He said that together with NIA, he "personally defended" the construction of the project in a petition for Writ of Kalikasan in the Court of Appeals.
He said he "begged for two years" with the National Commission on Indigenous People for the issuance of the Free Prior Consent to allow the construction of the dam.
Drilon said even though the groundbreaking ceremony had encountered several postponements, the NIA has worked as scheduled.
"The groundbreaking is only a ceremonial event which formally signals the start and therefore, no one is prejudiced when resetting of the groundbreaking because what is important is the NIA had started three months ago in accordance with the timetable," he said in a press briefing.
Also present in the event were NIA Administrator General Ricardo Visaya and Regional Manager Gerardo Corsiga, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., South Korea's Minister-Counsellor and head of Economic Trade and Official Development Assistance Department Sonyoung Kim, and Export-Import Bank of Korea's Senior Executive Director Deog-Young Shin.
Visaya said in a press briefing that President Rodrigo Duterte was unable to attend because of his busy schedule. "The President had a prior schedule but he would really want to be part of this," he said.
Visaya, in his speech, said that the implementation of the dam "means justice to farmer beneficiaries".
"With confidence, we look forward to the inauguration of this project in 2022," he said.
Once completed, the dam will improve the lives of 25,000 farmers by doubling rice production to nearly 300,000 metric tons per year and improving the average yield of farmlands to 5.1 metric tons per hectare.
It will also provide 86,400 cubic meters of potable water daily and generate 6.6 megawatts of hydroelectric power.
During its construction in the next three years, the JRMP II will also provide jobs to 17,000 workers.
The government of South Korea has granted PHP8.9-billion fund for the dam through its Economic Cooperation Development Fund while the Philippines' counterpart amounts to PHP2.2 billion.
"Today is a very important milestone not only because of the start of the construction but of the long-lasting benefit this project will bring for the province of Iloilo," Kim said in her speech, adding that the successful implementation of the project will provide impetus elevating the partnership of the Korea and the Philippines to the next level.
Daewoo Engineering and Construction, a Korean construction firm, will implement the project.
The project includes the 109-meter Jalaur High Dam, 38.5-meter Afterbay Dam, 10-meter Alibutan Catch Dam and the 80.74-kilometer Highline Canal which will be constructed simultaneously.*PNA
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