High-level EAGA meeting opens in Palawan

PUERTO PRINCESA (MinDA) -– Ministers and senior officials of the Brunei Darussalam Indonesia Malaysia the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) convene here today (Nov. 27) for its largest annual meeting designed to tackle priority programs and socioeconomic projects for the sub-region.

Almost 300 delegates from the four member countries are attending the BIMP-EAGA 25th Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and 20th Ministerial Meeting (MM), held at the Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa from November 27 to 29.

The EAGA ministers and senior officials will review and assess the priority programs and projects under the BIMP-EAGA Blueprint 2012-2016, which outlines the socioeconomic directives pursued by the sub-region in past four years.

A comprehensive discussion on the BIMP-EAGA Vision (BEV) 2025 will also be conducted by the ministers and senior officials, as the sub-region sets its sights in achieving future goals anchored on the theme to become a Resilient, Inclusive, Sustainable and Economically Competitive (RISE) BIMP-EAGA by 2025.

“BEV 2025, being the new development blueprint of EAGA aims to shape the sub-region’s future as a more relevant sub-grouping that is fully integrated into the ASEAN Economic Community,” said Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Alonto, chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and Philippine Signing Minister for BIMP-EAGA.

He added that the high-level discussions will revolve around ensuring continuity of current initiatives while pursuing new directives that will enhance trading and cooperation within the sub-region.

The discussions will include the establishment of transport connectivity, the strengthening of trade and investment facilitation services, the mainstreaming of Islamic financing initiatives, and the promotion of halal industry.

“These projects are expected to serve as the catalysts for investment growth in the sub-region that will greatly benefit its small and medium enterprises, considered as EAGA’s basic production units,” said Alonto.

He added that to spur economic development in the sub-region and to strengthen economic cooperation among its private sector, EAGA must prioritize transport connections through multi-modal transport networks.

“This is specifically crucial for Philippines, since we are not connected by land as compared to our EAGA counterparts,” Alonto added.

One of the expected connectivity deliverables being eyed is the actualization of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) shipping service, expected to be launched next year.

“We see this route as one of the mechanisms that will strengthen sea trading within EAGA, which is part of our strategy to develop a virtual economic bridge for the sub-region’s traders,” Alonto said.

This year’s senior officials and ministers meeting will also serve as a venue to prepare for the Philippine hosting of the 12th BIMP-EAGA Leaders Summit, one of the side events to the upcoming ASEAN Summit.

During the three-day event, the EAGA senior officials and ministers will also meet with development partners such as the Asian Development Bank, Japan, China, and Australia’s Northern Territory to strengthen both administrative and financial collaborations in support to achieving the goals of the sub-region.

A BIMP-EAGA Investment Networking Session will be held alongside the high-level meetings, as a venue to enhance the role of the private sector in spurring development in the sub-region.

“Our private sector partners also play a crucial role in the implementation of the programs and projects of BIMP-EAGA. The government’s role is to provide the enabling policies to ensure the programs’ sustainability,” said Alonto.

The BIMP-EAGA was organized in 1994 as a sub-regional cooperation primarily intended to spur development in the lagging sub-economies of the member countries by enhancing trade, tourism, and investments. Mindanao and Palawan are the two focus areas of the Philippines in the sub-regional grouping.  (Mindanao Development Authority)