ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 26, 2010) – Malaysia has praised efforts by private sectors in Sabah and Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to improve bilateral trade between the two neighbors.
Malaysia and the Philippines are part of the East ASEAN Growth Area to which Indonesia and Brunei are also members. The four countries have forged an agreement to achieve certain objectives, which include facilitating the free movement of people, goods, and services; share common infrastructure and natural resources; and pursue economic complementation.
While ASEAN is an acronym of Association of Southeast Asian Nations, an alliance of 10 countries - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Its aims include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, the protection of the peace and stability of the region, and to provide opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully.
Malaysia’s State Industrial Development Minister Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah said this was crucial to face changes and challenges in the global business. He said the private sectors in Sabah and Zamboanga have agreed to find the right mechanism to boost bilateral trade under the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area.
“The move will pave the way for higher bilateral trade volume,” Malaysia’s Bernama news agency quoted him as telling reporters after discussions with the private sectors, consultant companies and Manila-based Asian Development Bank involved in the Sandakan-Zamboanga bilateral trade.
It said among matters discussed during the meeting were the upgrading of customs, immigration and port services and increasing the number of ferries plying between Sandakan and Zamboanga.
“The improvements would facilitate higher two-way trade volume and woo more traders from neighboring countries to do business in this district,” Tan said referring to Sandakan, the second largest city in Sabah whose harbor is an inlet of the Sulu Sea.
He said the main focus was to upgrade services at Sandakan and Zamboanga ports as they were the gateways between Sabah and the southern Philippines. He said the Asian Development Bank also appointed a consultant company that would conduct a study and provide suggestions to improve services at the two ports.
“This is a positive development to boost bilateral trade between the private sector here and in Zamboanga. I hope after the study has been completed will be followed up with implementation of the ways recommended to improve services. This is crucial because of the keen competition in the global business environment,” he added.
Zamboanga City which lies on the tip of western Mindanao is the center of trade of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, all part of the Muslim autonomous region. It is also why Zamboanga remains one of the wealthiest cities in Mindanao.
In Sulu, Governor Sakur Tan is also pursuing efforts to hasten trade and commerce between Sabah and his province. He said the recent renovation of the Sulu airport would boost domestic trade and in return increase the flow of commerce in the provinces and Zamboanga City.
“We have trade and various programs that aim to attract investments and we are linking up with our neighbors to help in pursuing the mission and vision of the BIMP-EAGA,” Tan said.
The airport in Sulu, whose renovation was funded by the US and the Philippine governments, can accommodate larger aircrafts. And Sulu’s bustling ports are also gateway to Malaysia and Indonesia. (Mindanao Examiner)