On March 24, the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asean Growth Area will be 25 years old.
The four countries have so far formulated the Vision 2025, a framework that will guide them in the next half a decade.
Proponents of the sub-region said that so much has been achieved as the four countries have been collaborating on socio-cultural and economic endeavors. They have also been trying to harmonize their policies to slowly eliminate borders in their intra-sub-regional trading and cultural activities as they have so much in common not just in physical attributes of their peoples, but also their cultures.
Critics, however, would always claim that the sub-region is a waste of resources on the part of the Philippines, it being an “outsider,” as the three countries have common language in Bahasa and that they are physically interconnected.
Also, the Philippines has failed to enhance trading in either of the countries as even the former consul general of Indonesia in the city, Berlian Napitupulu, was saying that the flow of goods between his country and his host has not been that promising.
Napitupulu, who left the city early this year for a new assignment, pointed out that some Indonesian products sold in the Philippines are coming from third countries and not directly from the Indonesian sources. Had these products come directly from Indonesia, the prices would have been cheaper.
There were also attempts to enhance the connectivity within the sub-region through the mounting of flights and shipping routes, but the lack of traffic between the Philippines and the rest of the sub-region has become a huge challenge.
So what road will the sub-region take in the next 25 years? What destination will it reach?
On the part of the Philippines, more than the rhetorics, it must be able to maximize the potentials of its participation in the sub-region. Otherwise, it will not only be a waste of resources, but a waste of opportunities.