The Brunei Darussalam–Indonesia–Malaysia–Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) has exceeded targets in completing priority projects, with nine completed and expanded this year, ministers said at the close of the 23rd BIMP-EAGA Ministerial Meeting in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, Malaysia on 24 November, Sunday.
“We are pleased with substantial progress in the implementation of projects, initiatives and key deliverables outlined in the BEV 2025 (BIMP-EAGA Vision 2025),” the ministers said in a joint statement, referring to the development blueprint guiding the four countries toward their goal of narrowing development gaps, sustainably managing natural resources, and promoting stronger connectivity through 2025. “The Priority In-frastructure Projects (PIPs), complemented by sectoral undertakings (under the BIMP-EAGA strategic pillars), are helping create a more desirable and competitive trade, investment and tourism environment,” the ministers said.
The joint statement was signed by Hajah Dr. May Fa’ezah Haji Ahmad Ariffin, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economy, Brunei Darussalam; Bobby Hamzar Rafinus, Senior Advisor to Coordinating Minister for Regional Development, Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, Indonesia; Dr. Radzi Jidin, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs, Malaysia; and Emmanuel F. Piñol, Secretary, Mindanao Development Authority, Philippines.
Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau, Deputy Chief Minister/Minister of Trade and Industry, Sabah, Malaysia; Datuk Hajah Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring, Sarawak; and Rogelio Pacquiao, Jr, Congressman and Chairman of Special Committee on EAGA Affairs in the House of Representatives of the Philippines, also joined the meeting.
Status of projects
BIMP-EAGA has a rolling pipeline of 72 priority projects valued at $23.27 billion. The projects serve as the cornerstone of BIMP-EAGA countries’ cooperation. “After 2 years of implementing BEV 2025, we are encouraged that project completion is exceeding set targets. With 24 (33%) projects completed, 5 (7%) nearing completion, and 44 (60%) in various stages of implementation, BIMP-EAGA integration is advancing at an impressive pace,” the ministers said.
Five of the projects completed this year were in Indonesia. These are the expansion of Adi Soemarmo International Airport, upgrade of Phase I of the new Makassar Port and Bitung Port, construction of the Pontianak–Entikong Transport Link, and the Entikong Freight Terminal.
One of the priority projects was completed in Malaysia—the construction of the Pan Borneo Highway Sarawak Package 1 from Teluk Melano to Sematan.
Meanwhile, three projects were completed in the Philippines: the upgrade of the General Santos City International Airport, expansion of Zamboanga Port, and construction of roads in the Western Mindanao Development Corridor.
The ministers expect the completion of three other projects within the year. These are: the Temburong Bridge, the Manado–Bitung Road Enhancement, and the Balikpapan-Samarinda Toll Road in Indonesia.
“We task our national and local agencies to more expeditiously and successfully implement the PIPs to optimize the benefits of integration. We also urge BIMP-EAGA stakeholders to fully utilize the infrastructure established to facilitate trade, investment and tourism in the subregion,” they said.
New air routes
The ministers also welcomed new air routes launched over the past year. Royal Brunei Airlines opened air links to and from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuching, Sandakan, Bintulu, Tawau, and Sibu, all in Malaysia. It will also start flying to Balikpapan in Indonesia in December. Garuda Airlines, meanwhile, opened links between Manado in Indonesia, and Davao in the Philippines. In March, the ministers said a Zamboanga–Kota Kinabalu air service will start.
The ministers said expanded air links in the subregion will spur tourist arrivals in BIMP-EAGA and encourage tourism players to develop multi-country tour packages. Tourism has been steadily increasing over the years, with arrivals in 2017 alone reaching 88.2 million, a 6.7% jump from the previous year. “We stress the need to initiate more activities focused on marketing and product development and for the private sector to promote tour packages to ensure the sustainability of the air routes,” they said.
Other areas of cooperation
The ministers also lauded progress in the private-sector led BIMP-EAGA Submarine and Terrestrial (BEST) Cable System project, which will link all four countries using a hybrid communications platform either through sub-sea cable, satellite, or terrestrial systems.
They also pledged more cooperation on energy security, economic corridor development, trade and investment facilitation, agriculture, tourism, environment, and human resource development.
The ministers also pushed for greater cooperation with ASEAN given BIMP-EAGA’s strategic role as a building block to ASEAN integration and community building.
Senior officials’ meeting and other activities
Apart from the Ministerial Meeting, Kuching also hosted other related BIMP-EAGA meetings and events on 19–25 November. These included the 28th BIMP-EAGA Senior Officials’ Meeting; the 2nd BIMP-EAGA and China Ministerial Meeting; 13th BIMP-EAGA + China Senior Officials’ Meeting; the 7th BIMP-EAGA + Northern Territory Senior Officials’ Meeting; the 4th Industrial Revolution Workshop; and the Budayaw Festival.