“The Jalaur Dam is one of the pet projects, if not milking cows, of Senate President Franklin Drilon, one of Aquino’s leading allies.” – Environmental Network against Pork Barrel and Corruption
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — At the Senate hearing on the Disbursement Acceleration Program Thursday July 24, Senate President Franklin Drilon did not question Budget Secretary Butch Abad but helped him defend what the Supreme Court declared as mostly unconstitutional funding mechanism. Drilon also described the Senate hearing as unlike the PDAF scam hearing because he said it was not about shedding light on a case of malfeasance. He expounded also on the legal excuse cited by President BS Aquino III and Budget Secretary Abad.
Ahead of the Supreme Court decision on the motion for reconsideration filed by Malacañang on the ruling that struck down salient points of DAP, Drilon said the Administrative Code used as basis for DAP is the Congress’ interpretation of how public funds (and “savings”) are to be used. Drilon also claimed that legislators only “nominated” or proposed projects for DAP funding, which Sec. Abad confirmed.
In a statement, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said what Drilon did at the Senate hearing “only establishes the fact that DAP was created and executed by none other than the Executive Department.” By law it should have been the Congress appropriating funds.
How the Senate President acted did not surprise the anti-pork legislators or environmentalists. According to Ridon, “Of course, Drilon would defend DAP to the best of his abilities. He, after all, got P450 million ($10.39 M) for Jalaur Dam through DAP, without it having to pass through General Appropriations Act (GAA).”
Why ‘accelerate’ destructive projects, environmentalists ask
A day after the Senate hearing on Aquino’s defense of DAP, 17 environmental groups launched an alliance supporting moves to impeach President Benigno Simeon Aquino III over his “repeated abuse of the unconstitutional presidential pork barrel.” The environmental groups highlighted in particular the P450-million ($10.39 M) allocated to the controversial Jalaur Mega Dam project in Iloilo through public funds collected by the budget department under DAP.
“The DAP was used by Pres. Aquino to accelerate the construction of the P11.2-billion ($285.54 M) Jalaur Mega Dam despite various studies warning of its adverse impacts to indigenous communities, lowland communities and the environment,“ said Leon Dulce, spokesperson of the newly formed Environmental Network against Pork Barrel and Corruption (ENAP Corruption!).
The said project has long been opposed by the indigenous communities grouped under TUMANDUK (Indigenous Farmers in Defense of Land and Life) whose land would be inundated. Another part of their land is now being used as military reservation because soldiers were deployed allegedly to protect the project.
Until today, legal cases hound the project. On top of having been partly funded in an unconstitutional manner, it is also marked by anomalies in its implementation so far, based on the sharing of former Iloilo 2nd district Rep. Augusto Syjuco, TUMANDUK, lawyer Chyt Daytec of NUPL and Hope Hervilla of Jalaur River for the People Movement.
“Funding came even before the approval of the project,” former congressman Syjuco said in a press conference held by Kalikasan last week. Syjuco said Drilon himself arranged for the signing of the loan agreement between the South Korean representative and the Philippine representative, witnessed by President Aquino.
“This administration wants it so badly to raise funds for next election,” Syjuco said. He alleged that in this project is an example of how Drilon has been making money for the past 30 years.
“The Jalaur Dam is one of the pet projects, if not milking cows of Senate President Franklin Drilon, one of Aquino’s leading allies. It is no wonder Drilon was hell-bent on defending Budget Secretary Butch Abad in Thursday’s senate hearing,” said Dulce of newly formed ENAP Corruption!.
The group wants Aquino impeached, saying he acted “in bad faith in using the DAP to fund an environmentally destructive project outside the approved General Appropriations Act (GAA).” Dulce said billions more of public funds allocated in Aquino’s various pork funds should be rechanneled instead to greater subsidies to environmental protection and climate resiliency.
Just so the Jalaur dam project will push through, the process of securing approval for the project has been marked by deception and harassment, said Syjuco.
Citing the demand of the Tumandok whom he described as an endangered species now, Syjuco had filed a petition for Writ of Kalikasan with the Supreme Court, which granted it last year Oct 31. But the dam project proponents continue to push for it, this time, with another dam project, bigger and more expensive, connected or integrated to the first. Lawyer Chyt Daytec of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer (NUPL) said the P27-billion Jalaur II mega-dam project is to be financed by JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency).
Daytec said the loans from JICA (and from Korean Eximbank, for that matter) are presented to Filipinos like a sweet deal, carrying interest rate of just a fourth of one percent. But considering the many strings attached, such as the condition that only Korean and Japanese contractors would be awarded the Jalaur I and Jalaur II dam construction projects, respectively, and given the length of time Filipinos would amortize it, Daytec said, Filipinos stand to lose a lot. These, on top of losing the lands and livelihoods and perhaps the lives of the Tumandok who seem to be regarded as if they do not exist on the lands to be occupied by the dam.
Although a Writ of Kalikasan has been granted, investigation into the dam project is still ongoing leading to a decision whether it would be stopped permanently.
Work continues in the dam as of this writing. Holes are being drilled to make tunnels toward the dam site. Jalaur Dam is located in Panay Island, in a town called Calinog, which means earthquake.
A scientific investigation in 2012 conducted by the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), also a convening organization in ENAP Corruption!, noted that there are observed geological risks and threats of critical biodiversity loss in the Jalaur Dam’s construction sites.
The ENAP Corruption is convened by AGHAM, Alay Bayan Inc., BUKAL Batangas, CARAGA Watch, Center for Environmental Concerns, Ecological Society of the Philippines, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, Kalikasan Youth – UMak, National Union of People’s Lawyers – Environment Desk, Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, Saribuhay – UP Manila, Save the Bay Alliance, Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for the Environment, SOCSKSARGENDS Agenda, Zero Waste Philippines, and 350.org Pilipinas.
The alliance also expressed support for the planned People’s Initiative that aims to abolish all forms of pork barrel, including the itemized congressional pork barrel and the presidential or executive pork barrel.
Seeking a clean and green governance
“Through the People’s Initiative, we will advocate for the rechanneling of freed-up pork funds toward increased allocations in the GAA for itemized disaster risk reduction and management programs, one of the main clean and green governance measures that we propose,” said Dulce.
Aside from the vulnerability to corruption and patronage politics of pork barrel, DAP and other forms of pork have proved to be of no help to disaster risk reduction, despite Aquino’s claims in justifying DAP. According to Dulce, pork as used by the Aquino administration supposedly for disaster contingency funds and the DAP-funded weather prediction and warning systems “encourages a reactive and slow program for disaster risk management that has no programmatic allocation in the national budget.”
To mitigate disasters and to help the population to better cope with it when it comes, the alliance proposes a ‘Clean and Green Governance’ agenda demanding greater state subsidy and not pork for basic social services, environmental protection and rehabilitation, scientific research and development, environmental education, and disaster and climate resilience.