ENHANCING CONNECTIVITY President Benigno Aquino, joined by Mindanao Development Authority chair and BIMP-EAGA Signing Minister Luwalhati Antonino, cites connectivity headways in enhancing trade, economic and tourism ties within the sub region at the recently-held 10th BIMP-EAGA Summit in Myanmar.

President Benigno Aquino III underscored the establishment of new transport linkages within the BIMP-EAGA as key contributions to the physical and social connectivity goals of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

President Aquino who attended the 10th BIMP-EAGA Leaders' Summit in Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar recently said the establishment of new air, sea, and land routes within the sub-region are key drivers in attaining economic and social connectivity, which will further enhance trade, investment, and tourism within the area.

BIMP-EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam Indonesia Malaysia the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area, a key strategy launched in 1994 to accelerate social and economic development of less developed areas in participating countries.

The BIMP-EAGA summit, held back to back with the 24th ASEAN Summit, gathered the four countries' heads of states to discuss developments, assess the accomplishments, and come up with stronger strategies to meet the goals of the sub-regional economic cooperation.

Sub-regional economic groups like BIMP-EAGA are seen as test-beds for ASEAN agreements, proving to be effective platforms and useful mechanisms for fast-tracking ASEAN protocols.

Among the transport linkages highlighted by the President during the BIMP-EAGA summit is the direct flight from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah to Puerto Princesa in the island province of Palawan, seen to boost tourist exchange between the two destinations. The thrice weekly flights are currently serviced by Malaysia-based airline, MASwings which had since applied for daily flights to commence in June.

President Aquino also commended the efforts of the Chambers of Commerce of Davao, General Santos, and North Sulawesi for establishing a sub-regional shipping service through the Davao-General Santos-Tahuna-Bitung sea route. The shipping operation is expected to commence this month.

Other connectivity developments within BIMP-EAGA include the completion and opening of the Brunei Darussalam-Malaysia Friendship Bridge that links Brunei to Sarawak, Malaysia; the road improvement projects in Pontianak-Tayan Road section in Indonesia, and the port improvement projects in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

"We emphasize the importance of sustaining these routes through the joint efforts of the transport and tourism officials by means of incentives, policy support measures, and extensive marketing and promotions," Aquino said in a statement.

He also urged the member countries to send their delegations to the 2ndBIMP-EAGA & IMT-GT Trade Fair and Business Leaders' Conference, which will be held at SM Lanang Premier's SMX Convention Center, Davao City on October 23-26.

Meanwhile, the head of Palawan BIMP-EAGA Business Council commended the government for exerting efforts to revive the province's private sector participation in the sub-regional cooperation.

According to retired Commodore Nicanor Hernandez, Palawan has been receiving increasing inbound missions from business leaders as well as local officials from Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan manifesting strong interest to boost trade and tourism links within the EAGA focus areas.

"There is so much opportunities that we can realize under BIMP-EAGA and we are glad our government is scaling up efforts to entice private sector participation in this economic cooperation," Hernandez stressed.

In a joint statement, the leaders of BIMP-EAGA recognized the four-day event as an opportunity for Small and Medium Enterprises of the two sub-regions to access new markets and develop potential partners.

"We are encouraged by active participation of the private sector and the increasing number of private sector-led projects. In this regard, we look forward to the conduct of the 2nd BIMP-EAGA and IMT-GT Trade Fair and Business Leaders' Conference," the joint statement said.

The weeklong event is also a commemorative celebration of BIMP-EAGA's 20th anniversary this year.

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