BIMP EAGA Senior Officials and Cluster Heads flew to Puerto Princesa, Palawan on May 25 to 26, 2015 to strengthen commitments on connectivity and transportation linkages, among others, in the completion of the BIMP EAGA Blueprint for 2012-2016.

The two-day event was attended by Philippine Senior Official and Trade Undersecretary Prudencio M. Reyes, Jr., Palawan Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez, and Senior Officials and Cluster Heads from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

“This post-summit meeting is a convergence of clusters to reaffirm commitments and revisit targets especially on fast tracking the implementation of these priority infrastructure projects,” said Undersecretary Prudencio Reyes Jr. as he emphasized the role of the Philippines in the realization of these long-standing agreements.

Highlights of the meeting included strengthening of Transportation, Trade and Investment Facilitation Strengthening of CIQS, ICT Infrastructure, Tourism, Environment and Socio-Cultural and Education initiatives.

In transportation, BIMP EAGA Senior Officials agreed to concretize road projects, seaports and airport expansions for a stronger connectivity within the sub-region. Through the signing of Protocol to Amend the MOU on Air Linkages and the Study on Economic Viability on BIMP EAGA Air Linkages Connectivity, air links between Philippines and its EAGA counterparts will be revived to serve travelers going from and to different BIMP EAGA destinations.

In collaboration with the Tourism sector, establishment of sea linkages such as Brooke Point’s, Davao, Zamboanga, and GenSan ports seek to push its implementation. BIMP EAGA also aims for the establishment of road projects such as rest and recreation areas in bus routes and access roads linking to ports and airports.

Pending land Infrastructure projects were given the most highlight. “Pontianak-Entikong link, Kuarah Lurah Border passing, Tanjung-Selor Border road, Manado-Bitung Enhancement Road and Davao-Gensan rehabilitation road are our top priority right now. The completion of these projects will significantly advance not only the Philippines’, but also the sub-region’s economy through wider trade relations,” Usec Reyes added.

In Trade and Investment Facilitation Projects, there is an ongoing consultation on BIMP EAGA Corridor Investment Profiling Project. This will manifest in the establishment of BIMP EAGA Trade, Investment and Tourism database which will assist in the promotion, business matching, conference and sharing of best practices on SME development.

ICT Rural Outreach projects were organized to facilitate capacity building. Also included in the meeting are the talks on BIMP EAGA Submarine and Terrestrial Cable Project (BEST) which will boost Mindanao’s position in the development of ICT-BPO industry. Its development will also serve as a vehicle for E-Commerce activities to flourish since more and more Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) venture into online businesses.

According to Reyes, strengthening media coordination and collaboration is also in the pipeline. This seeks to bring in country information and collaboration to BIMP EAGA level as to revisit its communication strategy endorsed by Asian Development Bank, “Strengthening Public Awareness of BIMP EAGA through Strategic Communications.”

ADB assists BIMP EAGA to deliver its goals for 2012-2016 through the conduct of capacity building for local government officials and private sectors on coastal resources management and climate change best practices.

“This meeting encourages convergence among closely related clusters. I am optimistic that this closes the gap on cross-cutting issues in transportation, trade facilitation and connectivity,” Usec Reyes concluded. (END)