MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday urged the Philippines’ partners in the East Asean Growth Area (EAGA) to turn their cooperation initiative into a “major catalyst for transformative change.”

Duterte issued the statement, as the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (BIMP), which formed the EAGA initiative, gear up for recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

"It is vital that we make BIMP-EAGA a major catalyst for transformative change in our region," Duterte, as quoted by the Office of the President (OP), said during his participation in the 14th BIMP-EAGA Summit.

Duterte told the four EAGA member-states that achieving growth "would need strategic coherence within the larger ambit of Asean and its initiatives."

Duterte urged his BIMP-EAGA members to ramp up their initiatives to ensure their fast recovery from the adverse impacts of the pandemic.

"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte called on the Leaders of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to intensify efforts to boost growth and development in the BIMP-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) as the sub-region prepares to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic," Malacañang said.

Recognizing the sub-region as one of the "major food baskets in Asean," Duterte also called on the member-states to intensify their efforts in ensuring the sustainability of marine and agricultural resources as part of their recovery efforts.

The Palace said Duterte also emphasized the need to re-establish air and sea linkages disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic, as he noted that developing digital infrastructure in the BIMP-EAGA region would further narrow development gaps.

"The President emphasized the value of convergence with other connectivity initiatives as well as partnerships with external stakeholders in order to achieve the goal of inclusive and sustainable growth in the BIMP-EAGA," the OP said.

Malacañang said Duterte likewise pushed for the creation of travel corridors and consider similar arrangements to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and rehabilitate tourism industries hit by the health crisis.

"The President also highlighted the Asean Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework, which BIMP-EAGA can study to promote essential travel in the region," it said.

The OP said Duterte also acknowledged the importance of mainstreaming environmental management and disaster risk and crisis management in the sub-region's work programs to safeguard and protect their nationals against disasters and calamities.

It added that Duterte expressed gratitude to China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia for their continued engagement with the Asean sub-regional area.

BIMP-EAGA is a sub-regional economic cooperation established in 1994 to spur development in the lagging sub-economies.

It covers the entire sultanate of Brunei Darussalam; the provinces of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, and West Papua of Indonesia; the states of Sabah and Sawarak and the federal territory of Labuan in Malaysia; and the island of Mindanao and the province of Palawan in the Philippines. (PNA)