Officials from BIMP-EAGA and ASEAN Secretariat push for the establishment of stronger linkages among sectoral working groups to strengthen further areas of collaboration and exhaust untapped economic potentials in some sub-regional groupings within the economic region.

BIMP-EAGA stands for Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area, a sub-regional economic cooperation within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

At a meeting held earlier this week, the Secretariat suggested that as rapid growth takes place in many other areas of the ASEAN region, the BIMP-EAGA must double its efforts in strengthening areas of collaboration to keep up with the increasing growth of fellow sub-regional groupings.

“This is a timely activity to serve as a platform for exchanging views among relevant stakeholders in synergizing the programs and projects in the ASEAN community particularly in sub-regional groups like the BIMP-EAGA,” said Dr. Somsak Pipoppinyo, Director of Finance, Industry and Infrastructure Directorate of the ASEAN Secretariat.

The BIMP-EAGA cooperation has in recent years initiated activities that help its member-countries develop and link with ASEAN goals, including the implementation of a number of priority projects under the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC).

He added that by forging stronger and more sustainable economic ties among member-countries, wider sub-regional and region-wide goals, especially the achievement of an ASEAN Community by 2015, will be fulfilled.

The ASEAN Economic and Socio-Cultural Community Blueprints recognize BIMP-EAGA as one of the sub-regional groups to receive support from the Initiative of ASEAN Integration and Equitable Economic Development, a mechanism that aims to achieve the seamless flow of trade, investment, and people within the ASEAN region by 2015.

Dr. Pipoppinyo added that BIMP-EAGA can also serve as a platform for Narrowing the Development Gap (NDG), another mechanism within ASEAN that pushes for mainstreaming social development issues and project implementation to help reduce various forms of development gaps among member-countries where pockets of underdevelopment still exist.

Also present during the meeting are representatives from several ASEAN dialogue partners who expressed interested on BIMP-EAGA-related activities.

“With BIMP-EAGA’s nearly 20 years of sub-regional cooperation experience and with the ASEAN Economic Community setting in by 2015, there is indeed much that both EAGA and ASEAN can work on together under shared strategies and beyond borders to realize the shared ASEAN vision,” said Romeo Montenegro of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the Philippine coordinating office for BIMP-EAGA.

He added “as a test bed of ASEAN, BIMP-EAGA can carry out some of the protocols and agreements of ASEAN at a more manageable level with greater success and can be a model in implementation.”

A BIMP-EAGA Summit is scheduled in Bandar Seri Begawan in April this year in which updates will be discussed among representatives of member-countries.  The event will be hosted by Brunei Darussalam, which will assume BIMP-EAGA’s chairmanship after the Philippines.