LABUAN BAJO, INDONESIA — On 11 May 2023, Trade and Industry Secretary Fred Pascual attended the 15th Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit, where he emphasized the importance of promoting and improving “soft connectivity” within the region.

BIMP-EAGA’s trade is vibrant, with the sub-regional economy growing by 2.4% in 2021, compared to a 3.3% contraction in 2020. The implementation of priority investment programs is on track and the rolling pipeline of projects is now valued at USD24.3 billion through 2025. The Priority Infrastructure Projects (PIPs) cover the development of roads, bridges, and railways; expansion of seaports and airports; improvements in cross-border facilities and inland transport services; ICT infrastructure; power interconnections; and urban development infrastructure and services.

For Secretary Pascual, the growth in the sub-region is timely as DTI promotes increased engagements and private sector participation in the BIMP-EAGA area.

“DTI’s active involvement in the BIMP-EAGA regions is set to come up with a campaign and information drive to initiate a stronger presence of the local private and LGU counterparts in the BIMP-EAGA. We will work for the development and promotion of sub-regional value chains to enhance the region’s competitiveness. This will likewise provide an opportunity for MSMEs to increase their participation in said value and supply chains,” he said.

To enhance MSME participation in the said initiative, the DTI will link the private sector such as the BIMP-EAGA Business Council, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and its regional chapters, and MSME groups including home entrepreneurs to promote “soft connectivity” through increased investment fora, trade fair participations, and business-to-business sessions.

Further, during the engagement, Secretary Pascual shared that the Philippines intends to expand Philippine Halal trade with key trade partners such as Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Board (Halal Board) also led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is set to sign a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on Halal development and promotion.

Likewise, Secretary Pascual expressed support for the BIMP-EAGA’s Vision 2025, which is to increase transport connectivity to spur economic activities in the sub-region.

“DTI supports the resumption of air, land, and sea connectivity in BIMP-EAGA as well as the expansion of viable new routes to service passenger traffic and movement of goods,” the Secretary mentioned.

Further, Secretary Pascual ensured his ASEAN counterparts that the DTI will remain supportive of the development of economic corridors and that he looks forward to the findings and recommendations of the on-going BIMP-EAGA economic corridors study that is supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). This study assesses the viability of existing corridors; proposes new areas for expansion based on trade, tourism, and investment flows; recommends viable routes to increase connectivity; and identifies infrastructure investments.

Given BIMP-EAGA’s strategic role in ASEAN integration, Secretary Pascual, in conclusion, reaffirmed the country’s commitment toward the sub-region’s agenda, which can boost the economic competitiveness of the ASEAN region. He also stressed that an alignment of BIMP-EAGA and ASEAN initiatives is vital to realize connectivity, trade promotion, and priority projects in the sub-region.*

Date of release: 12 May 2023