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Rough Cuts | An EAGA dream is off again

Today we would like to take a little break from writing on issues related to the raging pandemic – the Corona Virus Disease 2019 or CoViD 19.

The country and our government leaders are so engrossed in finding ways to fight the disease that has now led to the deaths of close to 200 thousand people and the illness of some 2 million all over the world.

While the pandemic cannot be ignored because of the danger it has brought to the world population including that of the Philippines, we personally find it our moral obligation to provide some level of wisdom to recall the happy days enjoyed by the country especially by Mindanao.

Yes, we are referring to the years when this southern Philippine island was the most promising area in the Philippines for borderless economic related activities that were vibrant during the Ramos presidency, and losing momentum during the terms of his three successors.

When former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte ran and won handily the Presidency in 2016 the borderless Southeast Asian region countries’ economic activities were spurred again. And everyone was hopeful the dream would finally come to reality.

This dream was the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) jump started during the Ramos era. There was a strong feeling it was nearing its reality under the present regime.

One component of that dream dream was to make Mindanao, Davao City specifically, the education center of the ambitious growth triangle.

We remember during the BIMP-EAGA years, almost every week there were national and even ASEAN regional meetings held in Mindanao’s two major growth centers – Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.

During those meetings where we have attended a good number of them, political, business and education leaders were identifying areas where specific programs were to be given focus. And Mindanao was considered to be the education hub not only for Mindanaoans but also for people coming from such countries as Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and even in the Australasian region.

Unfortunately, during the dying days of the Ramos administration Asia was hit by a serious economic contagion. While the Philippines’ economic fundamentals during that time were well-placed compared to its neighbors still the financial crisis impacted on the country.

The pursuit of the BIMP-EAGA programs was also affected. There were clear indications that it has slowed down and its direction seemed rudderless.

Even the ten-year presidency of Gloria Arroyo and the six more years of the second Aquino regime had not shown much interest to perk up the BIMP-EAGA Ramos initiatives.

Under the Duterte administration, there were immediate visible signs that the government has pumped in new life to the pursuit of the BIMP-EAGA. And we can see that the desire to make Mindanao, especially Davao City, the education hub for the growth triangle, is nearing its fruition.

We have observed that the city’s existing colleges and universities are expanding their capacities to accommodate students, upgrading their educational systems’ facilities, offering courses that are matched with the most demanded professions worldwide. The most noticeable among schools with heavy investment in classroom capacities and upgrades in facilities and courses is the University of Mindanao whose Matina Campus is clearly globally competitive. Some other schools are constructing new campuses outside of the city proper to help ease traffic congestion and to bring services closer to where most of the students come from.

And lately, one school, the Malayan Colleges, a member of the Mapua Educational System had opened its campus along J.P. Laurel Highway.

Then, we have read in the papers a report about the partnership of a Luzon-based university owned by the well-known political and educator family of the Laurels in Batangas, and the Cebu-based property development company, the Cebu Landmasters, Inc. The two are closed to completing a 22-hectare township north of the city proper. It will be a residential-commercial-educational mixed use subdivision. The former partner will build a school that will offer the best education to students. The latter will put up residential houses, commercial buildings, and condominium towers to cater to condo buyers and students who would prefer staying right in the vicinity of their school.

Surely, this project is unique in many ways. And we are certain that this will not be just the first and last of its kind. Recently we also read reports of plans by certain big-time property developers from Manila putting up a medical school with a hospital component inside another township now slowly evolving along J.P. Laurel Avenue in Lanang.

We have no doubt that this will be realized knowing that all eyes are in Davao these days because of the economic boom and bloom brought about by the assumption of a Davaoeno President.

Moreover, the city’s geographic location, its existing infrastructures, support services like power, water, telecommunications and transportation network make Davao the ideal investment destination.

And with a booming economy naturally people are drawn to the city with every migrant desiring to eventually settle in the area. Therefore, the bigger the population the more people expected to be going to schools.

In the case of the expectation that students from neighboring EAGA countries coming to study in Davao, its realization is not hard to come by.

The opening of closer diplomatic relations between and among EAGA countries has resulted to the easing of travel regulations.

Hence, movement of persons from the countries closer to Davao City especially for study purposes may be much easier.

And at that time the opportunity was already anticipated by those who are in the education business. Thus, we saw the start of expansion and upgrading of existing Davao schools and the entry of new educational institutions in the area.

But then of late the CoViD pandemic came. And it is affecting all member countries of the BIMP-EAGA. There is therefore the very strong likelihood the contagion of this kind would stop the realization of the BIMP-EAGA dream anew.

What a catastrophe!

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