Good news for tuna fishers: Indonesia adopts fisheries consortium with RP

Remonde said the two leaders agreed to immediately commission a joint technical working group composed of Indonesian and Philippines fishery officials to work out the details of the proposed agreement.

“This is a significant breakthrough because in effect, the proposal will expand the fishing grounds of our tuna fishing companies,” he told reporters.

Remonde said the proposed deal will mainly benefit the Philippines' tuna industry, which is based in General Santos City.

Dubbed the Philippines' tuna capital, General Santos City hosts six of the country’s eight tuna canneries, employing  around 120,000 workers.

A report from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources showed that Indonesia's fishing grounds supply at least 80,000 tons of tuna annually to the area's tuna canneries and other related industries.

During the last two years, the Philippines has been trying to secure a new bilateral fishing agreement with Indonesia after the initial five-year deal expired in December 2005.

The agreement earlier allowed Philippine fishermen to “catch tuna and tuna-like species within the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone.”

Under the agreement, special licenses were given for Philippine vessels—75 catcher ships, 150 fish carriers, 20 long liners, 300 light boats and 10 single purse seiners. The pact also allowed access to the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas of the Indonesian EEZ.

The agreement also allowed off-loading and re-supplying access of Philippine fishermen to 10 Indonesian ports.

Aside from the proposed fisheries deal, Remonde said the BIMP-EAGA leaders agreed to explore the possible expansion of the roll-on roll-off or RoRo shipping routes within the sub-region.

He said Ms. Arroyo, Susilo, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah jointly agreed to create a technical working group to study the opening of the proposed shipping route.

Remonde said the proposed RoRo shipping route will connect strategic markets and production areas within the BIMP-EAGA, which comprises the entire sultanate of Brunei Darussalam; the provinces of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, and West Papua in Indonesia; the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in Malaysia; and, Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines.

“They (BIMP-EAGA leaders) were very much committed to accelerate the cross-border trade and investment within the sub-region to complement the bigger economic integration initiatives in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” he added.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda, who graced the summit, lauded the efforts of the four governments to sustain their cooperation within the sub-region.

“The BIMP-EAGA has made progress toward improving transport links, facilitating trade and developing economic corridors. Looking forward, the region could become a major player in the regional and global food market,” he said in a press statement.

He said the ADB, which has been assisting the sub-region's integration programs, will work on new studies to facilitate trade, improve logistics and streamline customs policies in the area.

"To increase productivity in the agriculture sector, increased investment is needed in infrastructure development, technology upgrading, and marketing support. Policies on trade in agriculture products also need to be reformed to eliminate non-tariff trade barriers,” Kuroda noted.

The summit, which was also attended by local government and business leaders from the sub-region, tackled various developments related to the implementation of flagship programs and projects under the BIMP-EAGA Development Roadmap for 2006-2010.

The BIMP-EAGA leaders reviewed the continuing strengthening of the Customs-Immigration-Quarantine-Security (CIQS) coordination, expansion of air and sea linkages, local government cooperation and the development of the sub-region's halal industry. (Alden V. Estabillo/MindaNews)