Iloilo mega dam to help boost declining agri productivity: Drilon

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said the P11.2-billion Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project II (JRMP II), once completed, would “benefit thousands of farmers and double the [country’s] annual rice production.”

Drilon will lead the laying of the time capsule for the groundbreaking ceremony of the P11.2-billion Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project II (JRMP II) at Brgy. Agcalaga, Calinog, Iloilo on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

The Ilonggo senator, who pushed for the implementation JRMP II, said the construction of JRMP II came at a time where the country’s agricultural production continues to suffer primarily due to poor infrastructure.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Drilon said the lower-than-target 6.2% GDP in 2018 was partly due to decline in the agriculture sector, which repeatedly posted dismal performance last year at 1.1% in Q1, 0.3% in Q2, negative 0.2% in Q3, and 1.7% in Q4.

From a share of 9.6% in 2011, the agriculture sector’s share to GDP decreased to 6.8% in 2018, he added.

Drilon said the state of agriculture in the country was due to poor agriculture infrastructure “that has stymied the growth of the agriculture sector.”

“Sadly, the state of agriculture in the country is alarming. The dismal performance of the agriculture sector is among the factors that pulled down the country’s gross domestic product (GDP),” Drilon said.

Stressing the impact of the agriculture sector to the economy, Drilon said the construction of JRMP II could very well help in improving agricultural production in Western Visayas and in the country, in general.

“I hope that the administration would really prioritize the construction of agricultural facilities similar to Jalaur in its Build, Build, Build program, because only then we will be able to move closer to our goal of rice self-sufficiency, improve our overall agricultural production, and ultimately bring development to rural areas, while helping address problems of poverty and food security,” he stressed.

Drilon said that even Iloilo, which is considered the food basket and rice granary of the Western Visayas region, also experienced decline in agricultural outputs.

From a growth rate of 17.9% in 2010 to 2011, agriculture in Western Visayas contracted in 2014 to 2016 with successive negative growth rates of 1.8% and 0.5%. It was only in 2016-2017 that it rebounded to 10.8%.

Hence, Drilon said the “game-changer” JRMP II, to be funded through P8.95 billion official development assistance from Korean government’s EXIM bank and the government’s counterpart fund of P2.2 billion, has the capacity to augment agricultural production and stimulate agri-industrial activities, not only in Western Visayas but throughout the country.

“Our goal in pushing for JRMP II is to be able to provide year-round irrigation to 31,840 hectares of farm lots in Iloilo, so the province, and the whole of Western Visayas, can become the country’s rice granary once more,” Drilon said.

JRMP II, the first large-scale reservoir dam outside of Luzon,will contribute to the country’s rice production target of 7.6 percent, as it will increase annual production of rice to 300,000 metric tons from 140,000 metric tons in Iloilo.

JRMP II includes the construction of 109-meter Jalaur high dam, 38.5-meter afterbay dam, 10-meter Alibunan catch dam, 80.74-kilometer high line canal; generation of new areas for irrigation; and rehabilitation of existing irrigation system.

As a multi-purpose project, Jalaur will provide benefits such as flood mitigation and control, the promotion of eco-tourism in selected reservoir areas, and serve as possible source of power supply.

The project will also generate approximately 17,000 local jobs equivalent to P1.3 billion in basic wages per year, he noted.

JRMP II was first implemented in 1960s after the fourth Congress passed Republic Act 2651, which provides for the construction of the JRMP in Iloilo. Its first phase was completed in 1980s but its second phase was derailed due to lack of funding.