GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/01 September) — President Benigno S. Aquino III said Monday Mindanao is currently in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the integration by next year of the 10 member-states of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In his keynote speech at the opening of the 23rd Mindanao Business Conference (Minbizcon) here, the President said the island will play a major role in the country’s participation in the integration efforts, especially in terms of the opening of a single ASEAN market and production base.
He said the integration initiatives will be characterized by the free flow of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labor, which will “pose tremendous opportunities for our country, especially for Mindanao that plays a big role in the nation’s economy.”
“With its active participation in the BIMP-EAGA, Mindanao plays such an important role in the nation’s economic well-being that it is worthy to note how it will also fare in the coming ASEAN economic integration,” Aquino said in his speech delivered by Mindanao Development Authority chairperson, Secretary Luwalhati Antonino.
BIMP-EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines–East ASEAN Growth Area, a sub-regional grouping that mainly involves Mindanao and Palawan as well as other key east ASEAN areas.
The President said Mindanao‘s prospects for growth and development now appears very promising as the national government foresees positive transformation in the island with the signing earlier this year of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
He said that with the dawning of peace and development “in an area that is the nexus of our bloodlines and heritage,” the government and other stakeholders may now look forward to further strengthening convergence initiatives through existing growth corridors within the BIMP-EAGA.
He specifically cited efforts towards the promotion of sub-regional cooperation in trade, investment, and the tourism sector, “with a view of contributing to the region’s goal of realizing the 2015 ASEAN Economic Community.”
“We have aspired for many years for bigger markets in trade, tourism, and investments. This will become a reality in 2015 when ASEAN member countries integrate their economies into one ASEAN community to make it more globally competitive,” the President said.
“As ASEAN starts to look closely at regional sub-groupings, now is the best time for the BIMP-EAGA to put its best foot forward,” he said.
The President further urged Mindanao businessmen to move closer to forging more direct investments in the island, especially in establishing globally competitive industries that will spawn more business activities, provide employment opportunities to our people, increase the region’s productivity, and drive economic growth.
“I urge everyone to continue fostering greater understanding of the challenges and prospects, as well as finding the common ground for policy directions that underpin business growth and economic development in Mindanao,” he added.
Around 1,300 businessmen, professionals and government officials gathered here on Monday for the three-day Minbizcon, which is considered as the biggest gathering of business chambers in Mindanao.
The conference focuses on discussions regarding the country’s preparations and policy directions for the 2015 ASEAN integration.
The 23rd Minbizcon, which adopted the theme: “Growth Beyond Convergence,” is co-hosted by the business chambers of this city and nearby Sarangani Province. (MindaNews)