NEDA regrets Neri’s exit but “all is well”

Nicasio Angelo Agustin, NEDA Southern Mindanao regional director, told reporters in an interview Wednesday Neri's transfer was a great loss to the government's development agency.

But he expressed confidence NEDA will overcome the loss with the appointment of Neri’s deputy, Augusto B. Santos, as replacement.

Agustin said Neri's transfer will not create a dent in the thrusts or policies of NEDA, even to its work in Mindanao.

Neri drew negative reactions here earlier this year following his pronouncement that the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) was not the right economic partner for Mindanao.

The former NEDA chief then said trading between the backdoors of the four countries was difficult and will not do well.

The Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), however, clarified they were meant to consolidate the market to sell to those markets, and thus Mindanao was on the right track by engaging BIMP-EAGA member countries.

MEDCo admitted that the regions included in the growth area are poor but does not necessarily mean they are the wrong partner.

Neri cited the absence of an economic "big brother" to generate investments to the "little brothers". Instead, he said, the right direction points to China, Korea, Japan and Australia as the "natural economic partners".

Officials from the tourism, fishing, and other stakeholders in the BIMP-EAGA said Neri got it all wrong.

Agustin said Neri really did not like the idea of the BIMP-EAGA market for the country's southern corridor.

He said Neri explained to him his stand when confronted by the media that he was batting for more effort to consolidate for the bigger markets.

He also stressed Neri's stance did not affect the agency's thrust in the government's development agenda in Mindanao. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)