Bimp - Eaga: Win - Win Strategy (Last of Two Parts)
Last week's column underscored the primary importance of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III as one of the three key players in the current Sabah/Sulu conflict which has already eroded, if not endangered, the goodwill, friendship, and harmonious relations in all aspects between the Philippines and Malaysia - and on a much larger scale, ASEAN unity itself.
As a senior citizen who "had been there and done that," FVR cannot help but reiterate the immediate need for constructive dialogue face-to-face between the two principals - the Philippine Government (President Aquino III) and the Sulu Sultanate (Sultan Jamalul III) that should lead to an abiding agreement on the Sultanate's true status as an original, honorable, essential, and "should not be impoverished" component of the Republic of the Philippines and Filipino society.
Thereafter, their functionaries can meet without delay to work out the details of any decisions of these two (or lack of it). At this time of writing, too much blood in Tanduo-Lahad Datu, Sabah, has already been shed, and cooperative undertakings in BIMP-EAGA derailed.
There is just too much of our national/regional interests at stake in the Sabah/Sulu dispute - which had already deteriorated into shooting violence during the past three weeks. And what is our national interest? President Aquino III should know.
Sooner or later, but better sooner, P.Noy and Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak must also decide to agree on the restoration of our peaceful and harmonious bilateral relations, especially to maintain and enhance ASEAN amity, and repair the collateral damage in Sulu/Tawi-Tawi and BIMP-EAGA (which still holds the key to our win-win solution).
From the beginning, BIMP-EAGA was developed to be the home and economic prosperity zone for marginalized indigenous people/ethnic Malays (the Sulu Sultunate descendants included).
Early Successes Of BIMP-EAGA
Between 1994 and 1997, BIMP-EAGA's four cooperating governments moved briskly to bring up the sub-region closer to the level of their metropolitan areas. Our BIMP-EAGA countries liberalized their transport sectors to facilitate the mobility of common people, skilled workers, complementary goods, as well as professional services and technology across East ASEAN.
To promote private investment, business, trade, and tourism, we established uniform tariffs at selected ports; harmonized trade and investment policies; and began developing connective infrastructure.
Unfortunately, BIMP-EAGA's take-off to sustained growth was aborted by the Asian financial crisis of July, 1997.
The economic panic starting in Thailand at that time triggered major political and economic changes - most agonizingly in Indonesia - and created hardships for ordinary people in East Asia as far away as South Korea.
These severities - aggravated by prolonged El Nino droughts - lingered until the turn of the 21st century.
Beginning in September, 2001 - with the Al Qaeda attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon - above shocks were compounded by the outbreak of religious fanaticism and global terrorism by stateless radicals masterminded by Osama Bin Laden who targeted extremist groups in Southeast Asia to mobilize a second front beyond Afghanistan-Pakistan.
Nevertheless, BIMP-EAGA's attractiveness and relevance are indicated by the entry therein as "associate members" of Australia's largest states: Northern Territories (Darwin) and Western Australia (Perth) in 2006 and 2011, respectively.
A Reminder: 8th BIMP-EAGA Summit in Cambodia
Less than a year ago, at the 8th BIMP-EAGA Summit on 4 April 2012 in Phnom Penh (on the sidelines of the 20th ASEAN Summit), chaired by Brunei Darussalam, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah together with Vice President Boediono of Indonesia, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, and President Aquino III endorsed BIMP-EAGA's Implementation Blueprint 2012-2016, which calls for increased project delivery and strengthened institutional mechanisms. …