GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/30 August) – Mindanao is poised to benefit from the 2015 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) economic integration, the island being a focus area in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) sub-regional cooperation.
Secretary Luwalhati R. Antonino, chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), voiced such optimism last Friday during an ASEAN 2015 Regional Integration forum here.
The forum was capped by the launching of the Mindanao Trade Policy Center (MTPC), a body formed to act as a link for business chambers in Mindanao to face the ASEAN bloc as one market in Asia
The center is a brainchild of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Mindanao, headed by Ricardo C. Juliano, who stressed it will also act as the information center for the ASEAN integration programs and initiatives.
“We have aspired for many years for bigger markets in trade, tourism, and investments. Therefore, we have to be prepared when ASEAN member countries integrate their economies into one ASEAN community and become more globally competitive, Antonino said in her message to the forum.
She stressed that the opening of a single ASEAN market and production base characterized by freer flow of goods, services, investment, capital, and skilled labor presents tremendous opportunities for the country, especially for Mindanao.
Citing the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook Data and Estimates for 2011, George Manzano, economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific, pointed out that the 10-member ASEAN bloc has a market of almost 610 million people, with an aggregate gross domestic product of U$2,339 billion.
With ASEAN looking closely at regional sub-groupings, now is the best time for the BIMP-EAGA to put its best foot forward, according to Antonino.
Mindanao, being a focus area to this sub-regional cooperation, is in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the ASEAN integration, she said.
Already, BIMP-EAGA initiatives have been integrated into ASEAN’s Master Plan for ASEAN Connectivity, establishing meaningful physical, institutional, and people-to-people linkages between member countries.
This connectivity will allow for increased trade, tourism, and investments between the Philippines and the rest of the BIMP-EAGA countries, and to the bigger ASEAN community, Antonino said.
She urged the public and private sectors to focus on Mindanao’s key competitive and comparative advantages in assessing the island’s readiness and in firming up goals for this regional economic integration.
“More than ever, now is the time for greater convergence of public and private sector initiatives, and the pursuit for common policy agenda that promotes increased and freer trade, with high premium on ensuring sustainable development,” said Antonino, the country’s minister to the BIMP-EAGA.
The ASEAN Community, which is expected to materialize in 2015, will be based on three pillars namely “a security community, an economic community and a socio-cultural community,” a PCCI-Mindanao briefer said.
The formation of the ASEAN Community is expected to lead to the creation of a single market and production-based region with a free flow of goods, services and capital, it added.
The 2015 ASEAN Integration seeks to make the bloc a key player in international economy and politics like the European Union. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)