By Genalyn Kabiling
BANGKOK – In a bid to spur regional trade and investments, President Duterte has called for more flights and shipping routes among the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia as well as increased border security in the sub-region.
The President sought improvements in infrastructure connectivity, as well as in maritime security, to combat terrorism and other threats during the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Growth Area or BIMP-EAGA summit in Bangkok last Sunday.
The BIMP-EAGA summit, which Duterte described as “a reunion of friends,” was attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
“Ensuring food security and increasing economic opportunities for our farmers and fisherfolk should be the core interests of our cooperation…We must therefore enhance sub-regional trade through improvements in physical connectivity,” Duterte said.
Duterte said there was an “urgent need to increase air linkages for greater people mobility and cross-[border] trade.”
“Airline companies should also be given strong policy support to sustain commercial operations,” he said.
Duterte also proposed the establishment of more roll-on/roll-off shipping services in the sub-region during the BIMP-EAGA summit.
He noted that the Philippines and Indonesia have launched a roll-on, roll-off service in 2017. The shipping service links the cities of Davao and General Santos with Bitung, Indonesia.
“We would like to have similar arrangements with Malaysia and Brunei,” Duterte said.
Duterte also encouraged the country’s three Asian neighbors “to hasten the adoption of a common set of standards on the operation of the non-convention ships.
The Priority Infrastructure Projects under the BIMP-EAGA Vision 2025 must also be fully and timely implemented, according to the President. At present, 16 percent of the 63 identified projects have already been completed.
To attain the “Food Basket Strategy,” Duterte also urged the Asian nations to maximize the comparative advantages of their local economies.
“We should also work together to develop our halal industries to become more competitive in the billion dollar global halal market,” he said.
As the sub-region moves to improve transport connectivity, the President also pushed for closer cooperation with the Asian neighbors to combat the terrorism and other transnational crimes.
“At the same time, we must ensure that our borders are secure to counter the growing threat of terrorism and proliferation of illegal drugs,” he said.
He added the Philippines was committed to deeper cooperation on maritime security.