Early Gains

During the first four years of BIMP-EAGA, policy modifications like exemption of the travel tax, the decentralization of Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB) functions, uniform port tariff agreements between the Philippines and Indonesia, reduction of port dues and dockage fees, accreditation of hospitals for medical examination, discounted rates for telephone calls within BIMP-EAGA were attained through the efforts of the various BIMP-EAGA Working Groups.

Relevant BIMP-EAGA information was consolidated in the Directory of Training Institutions, EAGA Banker’s Director, Labor Market Information Compendium, Fishermen’s Handbook, and the FishLink.

Prior to the Asian financial crisis in mid-1997, air linkages in the sub-region expanded to 11 from only five (5). For the Philippine-side both Bouraq Airlines and Malaysia Airlines provided air services between Davao and Manado, as well as, Davao and Kota Kinabalu. Unfortunately, Malaysian Airlines had to stop its operations in May 1998 due to the Asian Crisis. BIMP-EAGA’s sea transport industry also had significant developments with the operation of Aleson and Sampaguita shipping lines between Zamboanga and Sandakan (Malaysia). In addition, the BIMP-EAGA Shipping Association was formed during the 7th Sea Links Working Group Meeting in Davao in July 1999. It was incorporated to identify opportunities for the shipping sector, as well as advocate necessary policy amendments for the development of the industry in EAGA.

In construction and infrastructure, the C/CM Working Group has endorsed the Pan-EAGA Multi Modal Transport Network System, a plan that would connect key cities of the growth area by air, land, and sea. This project calls for the construction and/or upgrade of roads, the establishment of border crossing stations, and the continued improvement of shipping services in the component areas of BIMP-EAGA.

In tourism, Malaysia’s Ekran Berhad built and opened in March 1998 a US$ 300M resort in the Samal Island in Davao – the Samal Island Casino Resort. However, the operation of the Resort was not sustained due to the effect of the Asian Financial Crisis and security problem in Mindanao at that time. It is by far the largest cross-border investment of one BIMP-EAGA constituent to a neighboring area, and forms part of the Samal Island Tourism Estates Program of the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT). Incidentally, the Philippine tourism industry is said to have most benefited from the BIMP-EAGA initiative in terms of tourism arrivals.

In the area of telecommunications, PLDT granted a discounted rates Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications has become a standard facility in more than 70 cities and towns around BIMP-EAGA, bringing businessmen closer than ever before and making cross-border business transactions the next practical step in commercial expansion.

Aside from the efforts of the Working Groups, other private sector organizations in Mindanao joined in the BIMP-EAGA initiative through the conduct of trade fairs, and seminars such as the BIMP-EAGA Orchid Congress, Mindanao Weavers’ Congress, Mindanao Congress and Trade Fair, Horticulture and Garden Show and the Mindanao Quality and Productivity Congress, among others.

BIMP-EAGA is not known only within the subregion but it has also attracted the attention of the international market as the fastest growing subregional cooperation in Asia.  Since 1994, more than 300 briefings were provided to incoming missions from BIMP-EAGA and even from other countries such as Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, European Union, Germany, Japan, New Zealand; and from multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and International Finance Corporation. BIMP-EAGA was also exposed to such fora as the Philippine: Business Update 1997 in Hongkong, Investing in the Philippines – A Focus on the Southern Region Regional conference in Kuala Lumpur, Northern Territory Expo in Darwin, Australia, Confederation of ASEAN Conference in Manila, and the 9th Council Meeting of the ASEAN Fisheries Federation in Davao.

In order to forge friendship and camaraderie among the youths in BIMP-EAGA, the 1st and 2nd BIMP-EAGA Friendship Games was held on 25-27 April 1996 in General Santos City and on 24-26 October 1997 in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, respectively.