The approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the House panel will benefit the initiatives of the sub-regional economic cooperation Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
This was according to BIMP-EAGA senior official Dr. Prudencio Reyes Jr., Undersecretary, Legal Affairs and Trade Facilitation for SMES of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), during the BIMP-EAGA Post-Summit Senior Officials and Cluster Head Meeting in Puerto Princesa City, Paalawan province.
“The BBL would probably benefit a lot out of BIMP-EAGA,” Reyes said, adding that even before the passing of the bill, they have already included Cotabato, Zamboanga, and other areas for the sub-regional economic cooperation strategic plan.
Zamboanga, for instance, is now identified as a freeport zone for Halal products. For Cotabato, Reyes said they are looking into agricultural expansion for plantation of corn and copra together with Davao.
“Davao has a huge surplus of copra, and we would like to take advantage of that since Africa now has an Ebola epidemic,” he said.
Maguindanao will also benefit, he said, out of the terrestrial cable to speed up Internet connection. “As you all know, our internet is very slow. So, this will arrive in Maguindanao.”
He elaborated that Maguindanao was specifically identified for the plan to strengthen Internet connectivity in the country.
Reyes added that basically, the BIMP-EAGA is a developmental platform to promote trade, people-to-people connectivity, business-to-business matching, and assisting small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“Again, I would like to express my gratitude to Brunei. We just conducted the cross-border e-commerce, which is staying in your house and conducting e-business, so, I think everybody will benefit out of this,” he said.
BIMP-EAGA senior official Tutiaty Wahab, the deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade International Convention Center of Brunei Darussalam, added that the sub-regional economic cooperation should also not be confused with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community for regional economic integration.
“They should not be confused, actually. The BIMP-EAGA is a sub-regional initiative within the ASEAN; it’s actually the largest sub-regional cooperation under ASEAN. We have our own agenda in the BIMP-EAGA, and ASEAN also has its own agenda,” Wahab said, supplying that what they are always aiming to do is to “as much as possible try to be the test model for the ASEAN initiatives.”
“If the ASEAN is facing difficulties in calling some of the initiatives, we try to do it in the BIMP-EAGA because we are smaller, we are closer, and it should be easier. For example in terms of air linkages, we did it first in the BIMP-EAGA and ASEAN followed suit,” she said.
The BIMP-EAGA has successes, she stated, that the ASEAN is modeling itself. Now that the sub-regional economic cooperation is already discussing its post-2015 plans, the ASEAN is also doing the same for the realization of the economic community this year.
“We will then look at how we can complement each other, how we can support other initiatives. So, there is no overlapping; we are trying to support each other,” the senior official said.
In light of the ASEAN Economic Community, Wahab said that priority projects within the BIMP-EAGA, under the implementation blueprint of 2012-2016, have identified 12 infrastructure projects which they agreed to implement.
More or less, most of these have been completed except for two that they will try to complete by the end of 2016.
A lot of these projects are upgrading of ports, building of roads within the BIMP-EAGA, and power connection which will be completed by end of 2015. (PNA)