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DAVAO CITY - The 29th Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) organized by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) on Tuesday will focus on initiatives that could help provide livelihood and income to the people during the ongoing pandemic in the local communities, particularly those living in the focus areas of BIMP-EAGA.

Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman, who is the current chairperson of the BIMP-EAGA said the ongoing imposition of lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus has made it very difficult for most of the local people to earn a living just to cover their daily subsistence needs.

“This abrupt difficulty of our people to purchase things during this pandemic has clearly disrupted the economic flow that resulted in the downturn of our respective country’s economic performance,” he said during the virtual conference.

He also hoped that the SOM will look at the challenging situation and ponder on what they can do as a sub-regional cooperation to help in revving up economic activities within the local economies during the pandemic.

“[In this way], we can at least help our national government in their efforts at providing livelihood and business opportunities to our people in the focus areas. Perhaps, it is also worthwhile to consider for this sub-region to come-up with creative ways that could make it easier for people to do business in the sub-region during this pandemic,” Macatoman emphasized.

Meanwhile, he also commended Malaysia for steering BIMP-EAGA’s SOM Chairmanship for almost two years and added that it has effectively managed and took things in stride just to ensure various BIMP-EAGA efforts and initiatives keep moving.

“The Philippines is equally challenged to take on the responsibility after Malaysia and assures every one of our commitment to stay the course and keep up with the current momentum as we navigate ourselves in these turbulent times of the pandemic,” Macatoman stressed.

With the global challenges faced due to pandemic, he urged fellow officers to remain hopeful and optimistic that one day it will shall all come to pass and they could once again resume the usual ways of conducting BIMP-EAGA meetings and activities.

“The same optimism I suppose should resonate on the way we strategize things and undertake innovative ways that could make BIMP-EAGA sub-region contribute to the economic recovery efforts amidst the onslaught of the COVID 19 pandemic to our respective economies,” he added.

Macatoman also bared that they are looking forward to discussing new developments with the country’s development partners such as China and Japan.

“With this, Philippines hope that we will maximize the opportunity that this meeting has given us to exchange ideas, dialogue with each other harmoniously, and strengthen more our partnership and commitment for the sub-region,” he further added.

This year’s BIMP-EAGA, Dato Ahmad Zamri Khairuddin of Malaysia turns over the chairmanship to DTI Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman of the Philippines.

The Meeting synergizes the efforts and initiatives of the member countries’ Senior Officials, Clusters, Working Groups, BIMP-EAGA Business Council and development partners to come up with an integrated strategies, which will trigger quick socioeconomic recovery in the sub-region amid COVID-19 pandemic. It shall also tackle developments and results of the BIMP-EAGA Vision 2025 Midterm Review.

The BIMP-EAGA was organized as a sub-regional cooperation primarily intended to boost development in the lagging sub-economies of the member countries by enhancing trade, tourism, and investments.

The Mindanao and Palawan are the two focus areas of the Philippines in the sub-regional grouping.#

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