By Hannah Torregoza
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday lamented the declining state of the country’s agricultural sector and urged the government to prioritize the construction of agricultural facilities in its ‘Build, Build, Build’ program.
Drilon, who 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) in Barangay Agcalaga, Calinog, Iloilo on Wednesday, renewed his call to the Duterte administration.
“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.
“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,” the minority leader stressed.
Drilon, in stressing the impact of the agriculture sector to the economy, said the construction of JRMP II could very well help in improving agricultural production in Western Visayas and in the country, in general.
He said even Iloilo, which is considered the food basket and rice granary of Western Visayas region, also experienced decline in agricultural outputs.
According to the senator, from a growth rate of 17.9 percent in 2010 to 2011, agriculture in Western Visayas contracted from 2014 to 2016 with successive negative growth rates of 1.8 percent and 0.5 percent. It was only in 2016-2017 that it rebounded to 10.8 percent.
Drilon said he believes JRMP II will be a “game-changer.” It is to be funded through an P8.95-billion official development assistance (ODA) from Korean government’s EXIM bank and the government’s counterpart fund of P2.2-billion.
The JRMP II, he said, will have 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 the Province of Iloilo, so Iloilo, and the whole of Western Visayas, can become the country’s rice granary once more,” Drilon said.
The lawmaker 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 also 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, he said JRMP II would also 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.