Indonesia seen as big winner in BIMP-EAGA

201509226ad52GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The balance of trade between the Philippines and Indonesia is heavily tilted in favor of the latter under the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) economic cooperation, based on data from the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

In 2014, Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province traded various products with a Free on Board (FoB) value of around $50 million to the Philippines’ two focus areas, Mindanao and Palawan.

On the other hand, Mindanao and Palawan exported only $870,000 FoB worth of goods to North Sulawesi.

Jonathan C. Miral, chief of MinDA’s International Relations Division, said the data were collated from the Central Bureau of Statistics of North Sulawesi province and the Embassy of the Philippines in Indonesia.

BIMP-EAGA is a sub-regional cooperation within the ASEAN launched in 1994 to accelerate the growth of less developed areas in the participating member countries.

Mr. Miral said efforts are continuing to improveTRADE EXCHANGES, particularly hastening the launch of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung sea route.

“The (realization of the) Davao-GenSan-Bitung sea linkage is a current priority initiative,” Mr. Miral said.

The route, which was supposed to have been operational since mid-2014, has remained unserved due to the absence of a suitable cargo vessel.

To boost trade coming from the Philippines, Mr. Miral said, the Indonesian Ministry of Trade has allowed food and beverages as well as electronics and garments to enter North Sulawesi through the Bitung port, one of Indonesia’s identified international gateways.

On the Philippine side, an amended Cabotage Law has recently been passed, which now allows more movement for foreign vessels in the country’s waters.

Once the Davao-General Santos-Bitung link is serviced, Mr. Miral said Mindanao could ship regular loads of cordage, elastomer products, beverages, ice cream, agricultural products and manufacturing labels and materials. The vessel could also be filled in with chicken, beef and containers from China.

From North Sulawesi, products that can be directly shipped to Mindanao include regular loads of fish, agricultural products and manufacturing materials, and fill-in loads of copra, corn, lumber, cement and other construction materials.

Last year, North Sulawesi imported from the Philippines ships, fertilizers, explosives, furniture, home and lighting, and iron and steel objects.

On the other hand, Mindanao and Palawan imported from North Sulawesi fats and oil (animal/vegetable), oil seeds, fish and shrimp, machinery and aircraft parts, and ceramic products.

The direct link, which is 350 nautical miles and takes three days, will allow traders to cut transportation cost and delivery time as the current Bitung-Manila sea route takes about five weeks, plus another five days from Manila to Davao or General Santos.

Rey L. Billena, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry governor for Southwestern Mindanao, said the organization has also been pushing for the direct link because it is expected to bring increased economic activities in Mindanao. — Romer S. Sarmiento

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