THE proposed P15 billion Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project II (JMPP II), which aims to interconnect the Jalaur, Magapa-Suage, Tigum-Aganan, and Sibalom-Baguingin river systems, will surely redefine the central Iloilo bioregion. This project involves the construction of a hydropower plant and an irrigation system traversing six municipalities which starts at the headwaters of the Jaluar River in Lambunao town in north-central Iloilo and ends in Tigbauan town in the south.
While the cost of the project appears to be prohibitive for the national government, Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr. moved to address this challenge by filing House Bill No. 4884 which seeks to create the Jalaur Economic Corridor, thus establishing a domestic industrial zone comprised by the towns of Badiangan, Bingawan, Cabatuan, Calinog, Janiuay, Lambunao, Maasin, Mina and Pototan, and which will be managed by the Jalaur Economic Corridor Authority (JECA).
The frontline strategy for the Jalaur Economic Corridor will be the implementation of the JMPP II, the establishment of a food security hub and the promotion of eco-tourism in the economic zone. JECA will be chaired by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director General while its members include the secretaries of agriculture, tourism, and trade and industry, the governor of Iloilo, the mayors of the towns in the third district and a representative from the private sector, otherwise known as the JMPP II Cluster.
It is also intended to boost agricultural productivity in Iloilo by irrigating 34,340 hectares of ricelands, address the power shortage in Panay Island through the construction of a 11.5-megawatt hydropower plant, and end the water crisis in Iloilo City by the establishment of a diversion canal that will bring water from the Jalaur and the Magapa-Suage rivers to the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) reservoir in Cabatuan.
JMPP II is the sequel of the Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project which was created under Republic Act No. 2651 that was signed into law on June 18, 1960 by then President Carlos P. Garcia. It aims to fully develop and harness the resources of the Jalaur River, and make it a foundation and focal point of development. The river system has an estimated drainage area of 1,503 square kilometers and travels 123 kilometers from its source in Calinog to its mouth in Dumangas.
“The JMPP II shall be a priority project that shall be funded under the Public-Private Partnership program of the government, or such other similar programs or project financing schemes.
Immediately upon the approval of the plans for implementation and administration of the JMPP II, (JECA) shall secure the provision of funds, as may be necessary in the immediately succeeding General Appropriations Act,” says the bill.
JMPP II involves the construction of a 106-meter dam across the Jalaur River in central Panay to store water for year-round irrigation, the construction of a 46-meter after bay dam in the area, and another 46-meter dam at the Ulian River. Three catchment dams will be placed in different tributaries of the Jalaur River system, while the main canal will pass through the central Iloilo towns of Calinog, Lambunao, Janiuay and Cabatuan. It will also intersect irrigation facilities in the towns of Oton and Tigbauan in southern Iloilo.
It also involves the construction of new irrigation and drainage facilities to cover an additional 12,000 hectares on top of the existing 22,314 hectares already served by the existing irrigation system, which will also be improved and modernized. National Irrigation Authority (NIA) reports show that Jalaur River has a maximum water reserve of 340 million cubic meters which can supply NIA’s existing irrigation systems in Iloilo. The project will also have flood mitigation benefits and is expected to promote eco-tourism in selected areas where the dams and the reservoirs are located.
The proposed law also mandates the formulation of an investment priorities plan (IPP) for the Jalaur Economic Corridor, which shall provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for establishments and enterprises that will open in the industrial zone. There will also be income tax-based incentives as well as value-added tax and customs duties exemptions on capital equipment.
Once enacted into law, this will be a landmark legislation by and a major legacy of the young Defensor, and a manifestation of his recognition of the fact that a river system can be a friend or a foe; because if we neglect the river system, then it can become a monster claiming lives and properties when it takes its revenge. But if we tap its full potential by protecting it and planning for its sustainability, then it can provide water for our farms, homes and industries, give us livelihood and employment and save our very lives.