By Jennifer P. Rendon
Former Senate President Franklin Drilon believes that the completion of the P11.2 Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project (JRMP) II will become pivotal in realizing the government’s efforts to strengthen food security and curb inflation.
In a press briefing at the dam’s construction site in Calinog, Iloilo, Drilon cited President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for his unwavering support for the completion of the Jalaur dam,
Drilon added that the completion of Jalaur Dam, which is deemed one of the biggest agricultural infrastructure projects to be completed within Marcos Jr.’s presidency, noted that it will be a significant step towards achieving food security in the Philippines.
“We thank President Marcos for his support in prioritizing this vital infrastructure project, which holds the key to addressing the country’s food security concerns,” Drilon said.
The former senator said there’s a need to finish the project as soon as possible because “this project is very critical in overcoming the challenges that we face today, particularly food security and rising inflation.”
The JRMP came into being in June 1960 under Republic Act 2651. Stage I involves the rehabilitation of an irrigation system covering an area of 22,340 hectares.
Stage II involves the construction of a large-scale reservoir dam to provide an uninterrupted irrigation water supply to 31,840 hectares of farmland.
The first stage was completed in July 1982. The project was then stalled until the conduct of a feasibility study in 2009.
It was only during the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III that the project was revitalized with the necessary funding and resources.
One of the perceived primary benefits of the dam project is its potential to substantially increase rice production, thereby contributing to the stabilization of rice prices.
The high cost of rice has been identified as a significant contributor to inflation in the country, according to the former Senate leader during the press conference.
Engr. Jonel Borres, JRMP Project Manager and acting Regional Manager of the National Irrigation Administration in Western Visayas, said that the project is on track for completion by the end of 2024 and is expected to become fully operational by 2025, marking a significant milestone in the nation’s journey towards food security.
The construction of the dam’s major components – the high dam – is expected to be finished by December this year.
The project is envisioned to provide a year-round supply of irrigation water to an estimated 31, 840 hectares of farm lots in the Province of Iloilo and shall benefit a total of 25,000 farmers.
With this, rice production in the Province will increase to 338,874 metric tons per year or equivalent to 71.54% from the current production of 197,545 metric tons.
By expanding irrigation capabilities and enhancing water resource management, this project will likewise empower Filipino farmers to increase their agricultural productivity and reduce production costs, ultimately leading to a more stable and affordable food supply for the nation, according to Drilon in a separate statement.
JRMP II includes the construction of a 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 systems.
The Jalaur Dam is the first large-scale reservoir dam outside of Luzon.
Funding for the JRMP was secured from Korea through its Export-Import Bank which extended a $207 million loan to the country payable in 30 years at an interest rate of 0.15% per annum.
The project is the single biggest Official Development Assistance (ODA) project of South Korea.
It is deemed that JRMP II will be able to provide year-round irrigation to 31,840 hectares of farm lots in the Province of Iloilo, and the whole of Western Visayas, Drilon added.
As a multi-purpose project, JRMP will provide benefits such as flood mitigation and control, the promotion of eco-tourism in selected reservoir areas, and serve as a possible source of power supply.