BIMP-EAGA meet opens in Koronadal despite security issues

The initiative is among the concerns initially raised at the opening of the two-day 2nd BIMP-EAGA Chief Ministers, Governors and Heads of Local Government Forum here this morning.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, head of the Philippine delegation, said they are seriously considering the possibility of linking up various socio-economic and development programs and projects among local government units in the BIMP-EAGA to help further accelerate the sub-regional cooperation.

"We intend to institutionalize this cooperation among us local governments and eventually build up tangible economic and development partnerships," said Fuentes, who chairs the Confederation of Provincial Governors, City Mayors and Municipal Mayors League Presidents of Mindanao (Confed).

Fuentes said the Local Government Forum is considered a landmark initiative since local governments were not properly represented in the previous sub-regional gatherings and related initiatives.

She said there has been no structure that would bind local governments to work and sit down together to discuss the potentials available for them through the sub-regional growth area mechanism.

Fuentes cited the need for the convergence of public-private sector efforts, with local governments playing a key role, to provide the enabling environment for business to further grow.

"Our role here is to make sure that we complement each other's efforts and policy decisions to provide a conducive trading and investment environment for our business sectors," she said.

Fuentes said among the areas of cooperation they are considering are on travel and tourism, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), agriculture and fisheries.

The BIMP-EAGA meeting was held just a few days of last Friday’s bombing in Makati City, where 11 people were killed and over 100 others wounded. These past few months, a few cities in Southwestern Mindanao were likewise rocked with similar attacks.

Dr. Elly Engelbert Lasut, head of Talaud Island Regency in Indonesia, said the Indonesian government is very much committed to help institutionalize the cooperation among local governments in the sub-region.

In his opening statement, Lasut said they intend to make such mechanism work by exploring more economic and development partnership agreements with local governments in the region.

Three municipalities in Davao del Sur and Sarangani province have earlier forged partnership agreements with Indonesia's South and North Sulawesi, Gorontalo and Tahuna.

Lasut said Indonesia's West Papua is specifically interested in opening up trade linkages with the Davao Oriental area.

Datuk Ewon Ebin, Minister of Industrial Development of the state of Sabah in Malaysia, said they will push for the integration of the sub-region's trade and investment initiatives through its palm oil industry.

He said they intend to open up production partnerships with local governments in Mindanao and extend processing agreements with their Indonesian neighbors.

Aside from palm oil, he said investors from Sabah also want to put in investments on ICT projects and Halal food and non-food production in the sub-region.

For Brunei Darussalam, Belait District Officer Haji Mohammad Abdul Rahman said they will push for partnership agreements with the local governments of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Zamboanga provinces.

Brunei earlier expressed interest to source their need for mariculture and agricultural products from Davao region and Western Mindanao.

BIMP-EAGA straddles a land area of approximately 1.54 million square kilometers and home to about 55 million people. The sub-regional economic grouping was formed in 1994 to accelerate trade and tourism potentials of the member countries.