The Jalaur Mega Dam and the Lives of the People

Posted: November 22, 2012 in Peasants

The area where the dam is to be built is questionable due to land and rock structures – daylighting joints, talus, breccia – and also based on the declaration of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) that Calinog is flood and landslide prone area. – Photo by: JI Alenciaga

A Briefing Paper on the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase 2 (JRMPII)
Released by the Jalaur River for the People Movement (JRPM)
November 2012

The Jalaur Mega Dam and the Lives of the People

Jalaur River is one of the 3 major river basins of the province of Iloilo, with a basin area of 1,742 square kilometers and the 17th largest river system in the Philippines. The river travels 123 kilometers from its source to its mouth in the Guimaras Strait. It drains on the eastern portion of the island and traverses through Passi City, and the towns of Leganes, Zarraga, Dumangas, Barotac Nuevo, Pototan, Dingle, Dueñas, and Calinog1.

I. The Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project

On June 18, 1960, the Philippine government signed into law Republic Act No. 2651, an “act providing the construction of the Jalaur Multipurpose Project (JRMP) in the Province of Iloilo and governing its operation after its completion.”2

From 1977 to 1983 the  JRMP  Phase  1 was funded by the World Bank  for  the rehabilitation of the four  existing national  irrigation systems in Iloilo province (Jalaur, Suage, Aganan & Sta. Barbara ) covering 22,000 hectares  of rice farms.

The next phase, however, did not materialize because the economic internal rate of return (EIRR) based on the studies conducted by the government is “very low and unacceptable.”3

In 2009, NIA Region 6 conducted a Feasibility Study of the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Stage 2. The JRMP Phase 2 is the construction of a mega-dam, with main reservoir standing 102 meters that will contain 197 million cubic meters of water in Barangay Agcalaga, Calinog in the province of Iloilo.  Another 40-meter after bay dam and a 24-meter catch dam will stand following the main reservoir. All 3 dams will situate along Jalaur River. While a 46-meter dam will stand along Ulian River, and 2 catch dams in Tagbacan and Jayubo rivers in the municipality of Lambunao, Iloilo. The construction of the 81-km high line canal will connect the Jalaur and Ulian dams and the 3 catch dams to the 5 existing river irrigation systems.

This dam will directly impact four barangays, totally submerging them: Agcalaga, Masaroy, and Garangan in Calinog and Tampucao in Lambunao town.  Indirectly, it will affect nine more barangays in the upstream areas of the dam.  All thirteen barangays are indigenous people’s communities.

The project aims to “sustain the region’s self-sufficiency and contribute to the annual increase in the country’s rice production target of 7.6%.”4  Specifically it will: (a) provide a year-round irrigation for increased agricultural production to the 22,340 hectares of the 5 existing irrigation systems and 12,000  hectares of currently rain-fed areas, (b) to build a 6.6 megawatt hydroelectric power plant to supplement the power supply in the province,  (c) to augment supply of good quality and potable water for domestic and industrial consumption in the nearby municipalities including Iloilo City, and, to realize other intangible benefits,  (d)  flood mitigation, and  (e) promotion of eco-tourism in selected dam reservoir areas.5

Other expected benefits and opportunities of the project include, generate employment for 17,000 workers during construction, and increased delivery of water supply among others.6

With a total  budget of  Php11.2 billion, Php8.96 billion  ($207.88M)  will be funded thru the  Official Development Assistance (ODA)  of the Korean Government  of which a loan agreement with the Korean Export-Import Bank was  signed last August 9, 2012.7 The amount of Php2.26 billion will be the Philippine government’s counterpart. This is the largest assistance provided by the Korean government to the Philippines through its Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF).

II. Damning the Lives of the People

On the other hand, the construction of the mega dam is not without its negative effects.

Dislocation of communities

The indigenous population of the four barangays that will be submerged and the other affected areas numbering about 17,000 will be dislocated,   threatening their culture, lives and livelihood. There is no clear relocation sites and no concrete and long-term program on how to address said dislocation.

West Panay Fault line

The proposed mega-dam is going to built approximately 11 kilometers away from the West Panay fault line that caused the strongest and most destructive earthquake in Panay in 1948. The said quake damaged 55 Panay-based churches, 17 of which have totally collapsed and 20 beyond repair.9 According to Tumandok IP elders and leaders, some areas in the mountain flattened while landslides and other soil movements occurred in about 10 IP communities. Based on the records of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), another intensity 9 earthquake hit the island of Panay in 1620 that changed the course of Aklan River and damaged stone churches and facades in Passi City. Another earthquake with magnitude 7.1, also hit the island in June 14, 1990 at a depth of 15km with 7 persons perished and 31 others injured10.


There is a very great danger that the downstream communities will experience flooding once the dam is constructed.   In the Philippines, flooding caused by the dams is no longer new. The communities in Central Luzon where large dams from the mountains of Cordillera and Rizal are located regularly get flooded during rainy seasons and typhoons.  This is because the operators are inclined to keep higher levels of water as the turbines of the hydroelectric facilities operate better with higher volume of water; but open the floodgates when water volume threatens to break the dam. When the flood gates are opened, it causes flooding in the downstream communities. The scope of flooding is wide and takes a long time, affecting farmlands, houses and roads. The situation is reversed during drought.  As the dam needs higher level of water to operate its turbines and diverts limited water to other river systems, the tendency is to deplete much needed water in the natural downstream water channels of the dammed river(s).

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Rapid Geohazard Assessment document declared areas in the downstream and those near the Jalaur River as highly susceptible to flooding. These areas consist of towns traversed by the river and 25 out of 55 Barangays of Calinog.11

Recently, several dams in Luzon area released waters to prevent possible damage on their facilities and caused massive flooding in several towns of Luzon:

  • August 5,  2012 – Four dams released water to normalize water levels raising alarm to residents of at least 10 municipalities in Pangasinan province which may be submerged in floods12
  • August 6, 2012 – La Mesa dam overflows raising alert level to “red”, which means  communities around and downstream of the dam must evacuate13
  • August 7, 2012 – Luzon dams continue to overflow14
  • In 2011, the 6 dams in Luzon released waters because of typhoon Quiel that caused massive flooding .15

Soil Movements

Based on the MGB Rapid Geohazard Assessment, Barangay Agcalaga, where the mega-dam is to be constructed, is highly susceptible to landslides. Nearby Barangays are also given the same rating16. The Environmental Investigation Mission (EIM), conducted last September 1-2, 2012 at the dam site by a group of scientists from AGHAM (Advocate of Science and Technology for the People), discovered that there are faults along the rocks and suggests that the area is active. Several land and rock falls or mass wasting were also recorded as proof that the area is highly risky to soil movements.

Worsening Debt

The Php8.95 billion loan for the dam project will be an additional debt burden for the Filipino people. The government passes on these debts to the people by raising taxes. Worse, most of the large dam projects in the whole world have an actual high construction costs compared to the original approximations. This is a reality that has to be faced in the continuing increasing prices of construction materials because of the continuing oil price increases and other situations that worsens the economic crises in the world and in the country. The benefits of the dam that is being boasted by the government will not be worth of the disastrous impacts should the dam suffer an accident.

Human Rights Violations

There is an increased presence of the military and police elements in the general area where the dam will be built. This will continue until the actual dam construction. There will be a worsening of violations of human rights and the rights of the indigenous peoples to their ancestral domain.

The most recent experience that the indigenous people have in the struggle against large dams was the murder of Macli-ing Dulag during the struggle against the Chico Dam in the Cordillera. To date, the local government unit has already started recruiting individuals for the Kabayan Action Group, a watchdog for the dam construction. The municipal mayor himself convinces these individuals and all application forms are personally submitted to him for approval. However, the group is under the DILG-PNP, hence the members are armed. Officials are retired members of the PNP and the AFP. Essentially, the Kabayan Action Group is a paramilitary group that will assist the military in militarizing the project area.

III. The People in Action

World view of Megadams

The Final Report of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) reiterated that even though large dams display a high degree of variability in delivering predicted water and electricity services and related social services, a considerable portion falls short of physical and economic targets, while others continue to generate benefits after 30 to 40 years (Final Report, WCD, 2000).

The Commission also reported that:

  • Large dams that had been designed for irrigation services have typically fallen short of physical targets, did not recover their costs and have been less profitable in economic terms than expected;
  • Large hydropower dams tend to perform closer to, but still below, targets for power generation, generally meet their financial targets but demonstrate variable economic performance relative to targets, with a number of notable under- and over-performers.
  • Large dams generally have a range of extensive impacts on rivers, watersheds and aquatic ecosystems — these impacts are more negative than positive and, in many cases, have led to irreversible loss of species and ecosystems.
  • The pervasive and systematic failure to assess the range of potential negative impacts and implement adequate mitigation, resettlement and development programmes for the displaced, and the failure to account for the consequences of large dams for downstream livelihoods have led to the impoverishment and sufferings of millions
  • Since the environmental and social costs of large dams have been poorly accounted for in economic terms, the true profitability of these schemes remains elusive.
  • The social groups that bear the social and environmental costs and risks of large dams, especially the poor, vulnerable and future generations, are often not the same groups that receive the water and electricity services, nor the social and economic benefits from these.

In the Philippine experience, the overall impact of large dam projects on the rights of the indigenous communities on their ancestral domain, destruction of the environment, flooding of downstream communities, community relocation, loss of livelihoods and the attendant militarization have only shown that at the heart of these projects is the interest  of the international financial institutions, multinational corporations in construction and energy, local big landlords, bourgeois comprador and corrupt government officials.

As a multimillion- or multibillion dollar-project, the large dam projects ensure the super-profits for the monopoly capitalists. In setting high interest rates in our loans from the IMF, WB, ADB and JBIC for this project, they are also ensuring that their capital continue to accumulate super-profits while economies like the Philippines continue to bleed financially and continue to be dependent on them. Aside from this, the monopoly capitalists ensure that commodity products and services related to dams are sold into the countries where the dams are found. It is not surprising then that the multinational corporations from countries where the loans are taken out also provide the construction firms, construction supplies and machineries, as well as technical personnel for the project.

The local bourgeois comprador, landlords and corrupt government officials are the local partners and conduits of the monopoly capitalists. They facilitate the entry of the projects into the country and the communities, they spin promises of development and benefits for the people and the communities, and through laws, policies, programs and contracts, and they ensure the smooth implementation of said projects. They are also the first to show coercion, employing military and extra-judicial force against the people should their deceptions are exposed.

People’s Struggle

It’s not too late; we can certainly stop the construction of the JRMPII.

As experienced by successful movements against mega-dams, we need a strong grassroots movement, effective advocacy, networking and nationwide and international support.

The government deliberately kept from the public the risks posed by the active West Panay Fault near the Jalaur mega-dam project.  Hence, when this was exposed, the safety of the dam project became a major public issue in Iloilo.  The dangers posed by the fault and the susceptibility of the area to landslides were validated by the Environmental Investigation Mission conducted by scientists from the AGHAM (Scientists for the People) last September 1-3, 2012.

The “Free Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC) conducted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) were not truthful.  They enticed the local indigenous people, who call themselves Tumandok with enormous ‘benefits’ of the project, without presenting the grave dangers posed by the active fault and the susceptibility of the area to landslides .

The three barangays in Calinog that will be submerged already have their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles, which according to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts (IPRA), Article III. Rights to Ancestral Domains, Section 4. Concept of Ancestral Lands/Domains says that:   The indigenous people’s concept of ownership generally holds that ancestral domains are the ICC’s/IP’s private but community property which belongs to all generations and therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed. It likewise covers sustainable traditional resource rights.

However, as information campaigns were conducted in affected communities, more and more indigenous people realized the dangers posed by the dam project to their lives and livelihood.  An increasing number of residents of affected communities upstream and downstream of the project site joined the protest movement against the mega-dam.  Church people, members of the academe, professionals and some local government officials have joined the broad anti-Jalaur dam network, the Jalaur River for the People Movement (JRPM). The JRPM leads the broad people’s movement against the construction of the Jalaur dam.

Bayan Muna (Partylist) has filed a resolution at the House of Representatives seeking an on-site public hearing on the safety of the Jalaur dam project in the face of the dangers posed by the West Panay Fault.  This is supported by several barangays of affected communities.

National and international support can further strengthen the local people’s movement against the dam.  In particular, solidarity support from the people of South Korea will play an important role in opposing the mega dam project.


For people’s issues: For peasant issues: For indigenous people’s issues:
Jalaur River for the People Movement (JRPM) Peasant Solidarity in Panay and Guimaras (PAMANGGAS) Panay-Guimaras Indigenous People’s Network (DAGSAW-PGIPNET)



1 The Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project Stage II, February 2012

2 Republic Act No. 2651, June 18, 1960

3 From Annotated Project Proposal, 2009

4 National Irrigation Administration Regional Office VI. “Project Briefer, Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project Stage II.”

5 Ibid

6 Ibid

7 Valencia, Czeriza. “Korea Eximbank lends P8.96B for Jalaur River project.”, 18 August 2012. <;

8 From Annotated Project Proposal, 2009

9 Lena, Perla G. “Solidum urges Western Visayas to prepare for earthquake and related hazards.”, 9 April 2011. <>

10 Source: <>

11 Mines and Geosciences Bureau. “MGB Rapid Geohazard Assessment Results.”

12 Andrade, Jeannette I. “4 Luzon dams release water; flood warning up.”, 5 August 2012. <>

13 Kwok, Abigail. “La Mesa Dam overflows, alert level raised to ‘Red’ for evacuation.”, 6 August 2012. <>

14 Mangosing, Frances. “Luzon dams reach spilling levels–Pagasa.”, 7 August 2012. <>

15 Jalaur River for the People Movement (JRPM). “Briefing Paper on Jalaur Dam.” February 2012

16 Mines and Geosciences Bureau. “MGB Rapid Geohazard Assessment Results.”


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