BIMP EAGA has nowhere to go but up


John Tria John Tria

Twenty-seven years ago, during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos, the concept of the Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) economic group was born. Its intention was to spur economic exchange between the proximate regions of these neighboring ASEAN countries. These include the whole of Brunei Darussalam, Sabah- Sarawak in Malaysia, Celebes Sulawesi of Indonesia, and Mindanao of the Philippines — which together make up about a third of the ASEAN area.

The effort was meant to create a set of economic corridors that will restart the once vibrant historic or precolonial trade routes in the eighth to 10th centuries when local kingdoms and communities, along with Chinese, Indian and Arab traders, created routes in Southeast Asia. Being proximate to each other, trade was a natural process. As technology caused surplus production to happen, trade
would logically intensify.

As the age of discovery dawned upon the world in the 14th century, colonial expansion from Europe con-
centrated trade in colonial capitals to control the flow of commodities, and other economic needs of the colonial governments, rather than to spur the economic development of the countryside in each colony.

Thus, the need for BIMP EAGA was to spur growth in such regions, to drive participation in the larger
growth process of all ASEAN-member countries amid increased global trade in the mid-1990s. The end in mind was to cause the entry of more ASEAN countries into the larger supply chains, or to build more productive local economies that can participate in the flow of trade and investment.

That would bring greater economic opportunity to the 70 million population, which is still growing.
Nonetheless, the BIMP EAGA effort must succeed today as current geopolitical and climate-related disruptions to trade and production exacerbate the economic impacts of the pandemic.

These weaken competitiveness and undermine the opportunity needed to create wealth for stable and resilient local economies. Businesses in BIMP EAGA will need to intensify trade across borders in order to boost economic opportunities and growth.

I believe ASEAN-level cooperation, and the pursuit of its three pillars – security, economic community and socio-cultural pillars — is best fulfilled when sub regional groupings such as BIMP EAGA flourish. This enables the benefits enjoyed by those from the diverse and fast growing region to spread further
and spur investment, and eventually achieve a growth that will be felt by those who live far from the country’s capital cities.

The last 27 years has seen the BIMP EAGA evolve into the economic and socio economic of ASEAN, culminating in Vision 2025.

Executing this advanced vision to achieve the desired results of increased trade and people-to-people
exchange will require high levels of cooperation. Currently, the Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA), along with its ASEAN counterparts and representatives from government agencies have been busy facilitating the implementation of this vision with the mid-term review last July.

May the results of this meeting bring more programs to boost BIMP EAGA cooperation.

On the part of the private sector, Holy Cross of Davao College launched its Institute of European and-ASEAN Studies along with the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines to push studies on cooperation between ASEAN, the BIMP-EAGA regions, as well and the various programs in Mindanao.

I believe more efforts to further strengthen ties within BIMP EAGA are forthcoming to take this region
to greater heights, and help us fulfill our growth and resilience as a larger ASEAN region.