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Position paper on the Jalaur Dam Project*

Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 13:02
Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines believes that genuine development should lead to a balanced and healthful ecology for all and serve the interests of the majority. This is why the Center is pushing for further studies on the Jalaur Dam Project, given the opposition registered by local communities and findings of advocacy groups that question the supposed benefits of the proposed infrastructure.

While the dam promises to bring development to the island of Panay, several issues hound the project such as questions on the geological soundness of the proposed structure; its adverse impacts on flora and fauna; flooding that may result from the massive construction; and the displacement of indigenous peoples from their homes and livelihood.

In an environmental investigative mission (EIM) conducted by CEC with partners from the people’s scientist group AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People last September 2012, several joints and faults were found along the stretch of river targeted to host the main reservoir. Besides these observations, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology also confirmed the active status of the West Panay fault.

There are also fears that the dam project may affect flourishing fauna and flora in Panay. A study by the International Commission on Large Dams reported that dam construction causes irreversible changes to the environment—alterations that can drive away fish from rivers and starve organisms feeding on flora wiped away by the construction. Areas with dams are also prone to erosion, which reduces land habitat for terrestrial plants and animals.

The Jalaur Dam Project is expected to generate electricity, provide irrigation and potable water supply and boost ecotourism in the Visayas region but consultations with locals taint the perceived acceptability of the dam project. Lowland communities are vocal regarding their fears of heightened flooding. The dam project also threatens to displace indigenous peoples from their livelihood and homes.

To erect the P11-billion river dam in Jalaur, Panay, the national government has allocated P2.2 billion from the national budget, and intends to borrow the remaining P8.95 billion from foreign financial institutions. With such a huge sum allotted for the project, all means to ensure the safety of the structure can only be deemed necessary and just.

In-depth studies on the effects of the proposed dam on the flooding situation, the thriving flora and fauna and the people’s livelihood are imperative to forming a wise decision regarding the pursuit of this project. As such, we support endeavours by legislators to investigate and validate claims and issues raised against this large development project. We hope that coordinated efforts among government units, civil society organizations and local communities continue, and lead us towards achieving genuine development that serves the people.

*This position paper was submitted to the Congressional Committee on Natural Resources during a committee hearing on May 28, 2014. This paper was submitted to support House Resolution No. 323 filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, urging the House to conduct an on-site investigation on the Jalaur Dam Project.