Strong partnerships are at the heart of an initiative to close development gaps in four neighboring Southeast Asian nations. For over 25 years, the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) has been surmounting obstacles to growth through cooperation and collaboration.
Established in 1994, BIMP-EAGA has spurred the development of remote and less developed areas that are geographically far from national capitals, yet strategically close to each other. The resource-rich subregion covers vast states and provinces with a long history of commerce dating back to the spice trade between Asia and Europe.
BIMP-EAGA has not been spared from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impeded the movement of goods and people across borders, and disrupted the subregion’s growth momentum. The four countries are working together to bounce back stronger from the crisis.
COVID-19 response and recovery
Leaders of the BIMP-EAGA initiative met on 28 October with increased cooperation for a resilient pandemic recovery high on the agenda. The 14th Leaders’ Summit was attended by Brunei Darussalam Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesia President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, along with ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi and ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa.
ADB has been a development partner of BIMP-EAGA since 1996 and the program’s Regional Development Advisor since 2003. In a Joint Statement, BIMP-EAGA Leaders expressed appreciation for ADB’s cooperation with the subregion, including recent support for the subregion’s COVID-19 response, transport and energy projects, analytical work on border areas and special economic zone development, promotion of green recovery, supporting for tourism revival, protection of marine ecosystems, and provision of capacity building opportunities for government officials.
Since the pandemic struck, ADB support to BIMP-EAGA countries has included $875 million through the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility to help the Philippines and Indonesia procure and deliver safe and effective vaccines, and $3 billion in quick-disbursing loans to support these countries’ COVID-19 response. ADB is also working with BIMP-EAGA government officials to identify transformative recovery strategies and manage regional cooperation amid the crisis.
Quality infrastructure investments
Despite the pandemic, BIMP-EAGA is on track to meet its Vision 2025 goals based on preliminary findings of the mid-term review being conducted with the assistance of ADB. Priority infrastructure projects that were completed in 2020 and 2021 include the Temburong Bridge (Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Bridge) in Brunei, the Manado–Bitung Link (Toll Road) in Indonesia, the LNG ISO Tank Export Facilities in Bintulu Port in Malaysia, and the General Santos Astropolis Airport in the Philippines.
Priority infrastructure projects completed in 2020 and 2021 include the Temburong Bridge in Brunei, the Manado–Bitung Link in Indonesia, the LNG ISO Tank Export Facilities in Bintulu Port in Malaysia, and the General Santos Astropolis Airport in the Philippines.
At the Summit, Leaders of BIMP-EAGA committed to build on the subregion’s achievements in enhancing connectivity, strengthening economic corridors and supply chains, enhancing trade, and attracting quality investments. They noted that while the subregion’s economy contracted last year, foreign and domestic investments continued to pour in.
ADB recognizes that investing in quality infrastructure along BIMP-EAGA economic corridors can help to mitigate the adverse impacts of the pandemic among the poor and marginalized. ADB’s infrastructure projects in BIMP-EAGA countries include the development of roads and sustainable energy in Indonesia. In the Philippines, ADB is supporting the upgrading of key road networks in Mindanao that will benefit farmers and agribusiness value chains.
Technical and knowledge support
BIMP-EAGA is a building block of ASEAN integration, and it is aligning recovery and resilience measures with the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery. ADB provides technical and knowledge support in this area by helping the subregion to develop a tourism recovery framework, maintain open markets, strengthen supply chains, support special economic zones, and promote digital integration.
Safely opening borders to trade and travelers are top priorities for the subregion, which is keen to promote tourism and production sharing across borders. Recent ADB studies examine cross-border value chains and border area development between Indonesia and Malaysia.
With ADB’s support, BIMP-EAGA is also preparing to refine its long-term plans and goals based on the results of the mid-term review of BIMP-EAGA Vision 2025 to ensure that the initiative’s work remains relevant and responsive to challenges and opportunities beyond the pandemic.