Wednesday, July 6

More intra-BIMP-EAGA flights expected to take off post MoU

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KOTA KINABALU: More intra-BIMP-EAGA flights are expected to take off as transport ministers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines intensify efforts to expand air connectivity in the sub-region.

A statement issued by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) here said that in the recently concluded ninth BIMP-EAGA Transport, Infrastructure and ICT Development Cluster meeting in Brunei, transport officials finalised the amended Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Expansion of Air Linkages and focused on how to further improve air, sea, and land connectivity in the sub-region.

“Connectivity has always been a big challenge for the transport sector, and we are happy and fully supportive of these new progresses in our air linkages,” said Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) acting director Florencia Creus, the Philippines’ Head of Delegation to the cluster meeting.

Officials from the Civil Aeronautics Board and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines were also present at the meeting.

Among key issues discussed were designating additional entry points outside EAGA (East Asean Growth Area) borders, coming up with incentives for airline operators who wished to operate EAGA routes and strengthening the recently proposed Davao-Manado-Kota Kinabalu route, which would be pioneered by MASwings.

The triangular route was one of the major inputs of the first Equator Asia Air Access Forum and Airline CEO Summit hosted by the Philippines in April in Davao City.

All these were part of efforts highlighted in the MoU on Expansion of Air Linkages within BIMP-EAGA.

The prioritised EAGA routes as agreed in the air linkages working group meeting were Kuching-Balikpapan, Kota Kinabalu-Balikpapan, Pontianak-Miri and Davao-Manado-Kota Kinabalu routes.

MASwings has also expressed interest in launching a Puerto Princesa-Kota Kinabalu route within this year.

“While other BIMP-EAGA countries are connected through land transport, the Philippines is working on the establishment of air and sea linkages to be fully accessible to our EAGA neighbours,” said MinDA chairperson and Philippines Signing Minister for BIMP-EAGA, Luwalhati Antonino.

Antonino said since routes from Mindanao and Palawan to other EAGA points were being gradually revived, the transport and tourism clusters would be coordinating more closely to come up with attractive tour packages for passengers and competitive incentives for airlines.

“The best way to sustain these flights is to generate more traffic through tourism packages and campaigns, as well as provide a more friendly business environment for our operators,” Antonino said.

The governments of the four countries signed the Air Linkages MoU in 2007 to promote and enhance trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange in the sub-region.

BIMP-EAGA was an economic cooperation grouping formally established in 1994 covering the entire Brunei; 10 provinces in the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Irian Jaya; Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan in Malaysia; and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines.

The Asean sub-grouping was primarily intended to spur development in the lagging sub-economies of member countries by boosting intra-EAGA trade, tourism and investments.

MinDA serves as the Philippines Coordinating Office for BIMP-EAGA under the Republic Act 9996, otherwise known as the Mindanao Development Authority Act 2010. — Bernama