Sultan attends summit of BIMP-EAGA leaders
By Sonia K & Alex How in Cebu City

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam along with the heads of state of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines yesterday reviewed the progress of co-operation of the group at a BIMP-EAGA summit that coincided with the current Asean summit being held here.

During the summit His Majesty lauded the BIMP-EAGA report "Heart of Borneo" which involved the initiative of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia in establishing a network of protected areas that transcended the borders of these countries. Matters relating to energy, joint venture airlinks and Asean charter too were discussed.

Besides His Majesty, the 3rd BIMP-EAGA Summit was attended by three other Asean leaders namely President Dr H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono President of Republic of Indonesia, Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Prime Minister of Malaysia and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Republic of the Philippines.

Accompanying His Majesty at the meetings was HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It was held at the Shangri-La Hotel Mactan in Cebu.

During the Summit, His Majesty expressed his appreciation to the Philippine President for the hard work in hosting the 3rd BIMP-EAGA Summit and for the warm hospitality.

His Majesty also expressed his appreciation to Malaysia for presenting the report on the progress of BIMP-EAGA and stated that the sub-regional growth area has had a very encouraging year especially with a number of good developments which showed that BIMP-EAGA was beginning to implement the directions of the "BIMP-EAGA Roadmap to Development".

These included the work that had been done in ensuring that goods and services could be delivered quickly and efficiently especially air services among major centers. In this regard, His Majesty welcomed the signing of the BIMP-EAGA Memorandum of Understanding of Expansion of Air Linkages by the Ministers after the Summit.

Meanwhile a joint venture Agreement establishing the BIMP Corporation was signed by private sector investors initially from Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines. The company is registered in Brunei Darussalam. The leaders reviewed the progress of cooperation over the past year.

In the BIMP-EAGA report, the Heart of Borneo initiative of the Governments of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia involves establishing a network of protected areas, productive forests and other land-uses, that transcends the borders of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

This is a conservation and sustainable development programme aimed at maximising trans-boundary linkages, promoting the expansion of the Protected Areas, maintaining forest connectivity, and ensuring sustainable and use practices. The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) is providing BIMP-EAGA with assistance in the planning and implementation of this project.

In relation to this, His Majesty also expressed pleasure with the concept behind the "Heart of Borneo" proposals and was interested to see the possible designation of some parts of the Heart of Borneo, as a heritage site.

On energy, His Majesty shared the many concerns people had about its future and expressed the view that it was important for BIMP-EAGA to be involved in working closely together throughout the region.

In the summit, His Majesty also expressed the importance of cooperation with Development Partners as they could being in capital and technology specific to BIMP-EAGA. The monarch also stressed the need to quickly develop concrete joint ventures with clear targets that would accelerate the growth and development of the sub-region.

He further stressed that the success in BIMP-EAGA's cooperation depended very much on everyone being involved at all levels including businessmen and women and the people.

This would bring a sense of togetherness and commitment in developing the sub region. His Majesty welcomed the convening of the first Chief Minister and Governor's Forum and their recommendations. His Majesty also expressed his appreciation for the Asean Development Bank's support to BIMP-EAGA.

At the end of the Summit, the leaders agreed to issue a joint statement on the Third Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area Summit.

Immediately after the meeting, His Majesty witnessed the signing ceremony of the BIMP-EAGA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Expansion of Air Linkages by the Ministers. Brunei was represented by His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In the evening, His Majesty attended a meeting between Asean Heads of State and Government of Asean countries with members of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on the Asean Charter at the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC), where upon arrival to the CICC, he was greeted by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

During this meeting, His Majesty expressed appreciation to the EPG for coming up with recommendations on the Asean Charter and stated he was pleased with their overall report.

His Majesty commended the EPG's resolve to realise an Asean Community and ultimately, an Asean Union, His Majesty further stated that the EPG's proposals on strengthening Asean as an organisation was very crucial for Asean's future.

His Majesty also said that he would like the High Level Task Force on the Drafting of the Asean Charter to use the EPG recommendations as the basis for drafting the Charter.

His Majesty supported the recommendations of the Eminent Persons on the need to ensure the Asean Secretariat is effective and emphasised that the secretariat should be given the resources required, especially financial and personnel support as well as the necessary mandate in helping to carry out and facilitate Asean's various programmes and agreements.

His Majesty highlighted that Asean had made economic integration as a priority and called on the need to ensure that a newly reformed secretariat fulfilled this objective and recognised the importance of political will in order to move forward.

Yesterday evening, His Majesty attended the Informal Working Dinner hosted by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines for the Heads of State and Government attending the 12th Asean Summit.

The Working Dinner was held at CICC. (13th January 2007)