2017 SPM 1st Day 4

EAGA CONNECTION Deputy Permanent Secretary Tutiaty Wahab of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam, Assistant Deputy Minister Netty Muharni of the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs of Indonesia, Principal Assistant Secretary Mohammad Izuddin Idris of the Economic Planning Unit of Malaysia and Assistant Secretary Arturo Boncato Jr. of the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines pose for a posterity photo during the opening ceremonies of the BIMP-EAGA Strategic Planning Meeting held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Senior officials and key players from the Brunei Darussalam Indonesia Malaysia the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) expressed optimism on the future of the sub-region, particularly in strengthening further cross-border relations within the area.

At the opening ceremonies of the 2017 BIMP-EAGA Strategic Planning Meeting (SPM) held here Wednesday at the Grand Mercure Hotel Harmoni, Philippine Senior Official to the BIMP-EAGA Arturo Boncato Jr. said prospects are looking bright for EAGA especially with the completion of the draft of the BIMP-EAGA Vision (BEV) 2025.

BEV 2025 is the successor plan to the BIMP-EAGA Implementation Blueprint for 2012 to 2016, which outlines the thrusts, goals, and future programs of the sub-region.

“The BEV 2025 is an exciting successor plan to the blueprint that ended in 2016 primarily because this is a result of a series of consultations all the way down to the local government units in the sub-region,” he added.

Boncato, an Assistant Secretary of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the plan’s effectiveness relies mainly on its efficient implementation.

“One of our major tasks is to come up with a definitive list of priority projects complete with concept notes and general implementation plan,” he added.

One of the key features of the plan is the mechanism to measure the results by the end of 2025. The plan also lists US$23 billion priority infrastructure projects, designed mainly to strengthen connectivity within the sub-region.

“This is unprecedented and unheard of in the history of BIMP-EAGA as compared to US$1 billion invested in the Implementation Blueprint in 2016,” said Boncato.

The projects include the upgrading of seaports and airports, the construction of roads and bridges and other infrastructure projects that support the development of sea and air routes within BIMP-EAGA.

EAGA Official and Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro explained that the guiding framework of the BEV 2025 emphasizes strong ownership of local stakeholders during its preparation and eventual implementation with support from local governments and the private sector as enablers.

“Our goals right now as far as the BEV 2025 is concerned are to facilitate integration, strengthen linkage, and encourage coherence of the various elements within the plan as we move towards identifying specific activities that help narrow development gaps within EAGA,” he added.

During the event’s breakout sessions, the transportation cluster announced that it is planning for the development and upgrading of seaports in Mindanao particularly within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Palawan to support connectivity programs and projects.

The Initial list of these seaports includes the Bongao Port in Tawi-Tawi, the Polloc Port in Maguindanao, the ports in Puerto Princesa and Buliluyan in Palawan, the Zambonga, Davao, and General Santos ports in Mindanao.

The BIMP-EAGA tourism cluster on the other hand is eyeing complementation efforts with the transportation cluster in strengthening the tourism industry within the sub-region.

Philippine Department of Tourism Undersecretary and Chairperson of the BIMP-EAGA Tourism Cluster Alma Rita Jimenez, said that a major thrust for EAGA’s tourism is to find the balance between strategy and execution.

“Our current objectives for EAGA’s tourism sector are to bring the output percentage up, implement the outlined activities, measure achievements, and proactively calibrate both opportunities and challenges,” she added.

More than 200 key players, senior officials, stakeholders, private sector representatives and government officers gathered for the 2017 BIMP-EAGA SPM, designed to asses strategies and set directives that will enhance cross-border trading and socioeconomic relations within the sub-region.

In November last year, the Philippines assumed the chairmanship of BIMP-EAGA and took leadership for all EAGA-related activities, meetings, and other functions.

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.

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