At the 15th BIMP-EAGA Ministerial Meeting held 1 October 2010 at Kuching, Sarawak, the countries decided to streamline the strategic thrusts of the program into three pillars in order to focus and further consolidate various sectoral initiatives. Taking into account the recommendations of the ASEAN Midterm Review (MTR), as well as recent directives from the Summit meetings, it was decided that the BIMP-EAGA program would be structured around three strategic pillars, namely: (i) Enhanced Connectivity; (ii) Food Basket Strategy; and (iii) Tourism Development (Figure 2).  At the 20th BIMP-EAGA Ministerial Meeting, held at Cagayan de Oro, Philippines on 20-21 October 2011, a fourth strategic pillar on Environment was added, consistent with the Roadmap’s thrust on natural resources management, and to highlight the urgency of addressing the new environmental challenges in the region.  The IB is thus anchored on the four strategic pillars that will guide cooperation over the five-year period 2012-2016.

The 10-Point Agenda being put forward by former president Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo has particularly afforded the strategic opportunity for Mindanao to significantly contribute to the overall development efforts of the national government and that of BIMP-EAGA. It may be noted that the development strategies for Mindanao aptly mirror the thrusts of the national government.

Mindanao’s strategic location in Asia Pacific makes it a potential hub for transport, business, and telecommunications, among others. Mindanao in BIMP-EAGA was dubbed as Asia’s playground in the 21st century due to our exquisite tourism assets, rich water resources and favorable climatic condition. Mindanao’s rich soil and typhoon-free climate allows us to produce bountiful agricultural and fishery products.

The creation of BIMP-EAGA served as a window for global opportunities for Mindanao and Palawan.  However, when the Asian financial crisis hit the subregion, the growth area was heavily affected.

The Asian financial crisis reduced the power of currencies in the ASEAN. As the four (4) member countries had weak currencies, intra-regional trading ceased to be a viable proposition. Further, BIMP-EAGA failed to tap markets external to the BIMP-EAGA for potential dollar earners such as tourism and exports.

In Mindanao and Palawan, the once successful air routes and sea linkages had to fold-up its operations. The Samal Island Casino Resort stopped operations due to the decline in the island’s tourism industry. There was also a noticeable decline in BIMP-EAGA activities during this time.

Early Gains

During the first four years of BIMP-EAGA, policy modifications like exemption of the travel tax, the decentralization of Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB) functions, uniform port tariff agreements between the Philippines and Indonesia, reduction of port dues and dockage fees, accreditation of hospitals for medical examination, discounted rates for telephone calls within BIMP-EAGA were attained through the efforts of the various BIMP-EAGA Working Groups.

Relevant BIMP-EAGA information was consolidated in the Directory of Training Institutions, EAGA Banker’s Director, Labor Market Information Compendium, Fishermen’s Handbook, and the FishLink.