Tourism exec says Neri got it all wrong re EAGA

"It takes a while to achieve the gains that we have now and what we really intend to do achieve," Montemayor said.

Montemayor was the latest government executive to cry foul over Neri's statement that Mindanao could be better off with having China, Japan, Korea and Australia as economic partners than the "poor sub-region" of BIMP-EAGA.

Last Friday, Mindanao Economic Development Council information chief Romeo
Montenegro insisted that Mindanao was on the right track in having Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei as economic partners.

Neri, chief of the National Economic Development Authority, said Wednesday there is not much trade to be expected within BIMP-EAGA since this subregion "is equally poor as we are."

"It is good for public relations with the three other neighboring countries, but there is really not much for Mindanao in the BIMP-EAGA," Neri said.

Montemayor said Neri's observations are not entirely correct.

She said trade and tourism between Mindanao and the three neighboring countries of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia have picked up since the idea caught fire in the 90s.

Montemayor said the four countries have already taken advantage of these gains and are now deep in discussion on how to market the sub-region to the Asia-Pacific markets including China, Korea, Japan and Australia.

"If we gather together, we develop the oneness which BIMP-EAGA is trying to build for its tourism industry. It is the one single tourism destination that we are trying to build," she told Mindanews.

Montemayor admitted however that BIMP-EAGA , launched 13 years ago, was not an "overnight success" but she said they have learned valuable lessons.

"But that is precisely the reason why we have such group. These are the secondary destinations, which have the same concerns," she said.

Montemayor said they have learned to focus on pushing on destinations that has existing air links.

She cited the twice a week flights between Davao and Manado by  Indonesian airline Sriwijaya Air as an example.

Aside from this route, Montemayor said Asian Spirit will be soon launching its service between Zamboanga City and Sandakan. She said Sea Air is also keen in servicing the Kota Kinabalu and Davao route.

Montemayor said Neri must have been looking from a different perspective when he made the observation last Wednesday.

"We really have different concerns from Manila and other capitals of the member countries," Montemayor said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)