Sultan upbeat on BIMP-EAGA
From Azaraimy HH in Hua Hin, Thailand

BIMP-EAGA needs to push on with the free flow of goods, services and investment in the sub-region, while the flow of people too needs to be facilitated in light of the economic downturn, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam said at the 5th BIMP-EAGA Summit on the opening day of 14th Asean Summit yesterday.

His Majesty in his titah during the 5th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit on Saturday took note of the progress made in tourism and investment sectors.

His Majesty also com-mended the work being made to enhance air, land and sea linkages within BIMP-EAGA. His Majesty believed that this would benefit the people and assist businessmen in further reducing the cost of doing business in the sub-region.

On climate change and the environment, His Majesty stated that BIMP-EAGA should take advantage of the "Heart of Borneo" and the "Coral Triangle Initiatives" and viewed that the sub-region was in a good position to become a centre of excellence for research in areas such as conservation, biotechnology or alternative sources of renewable energy. In this regard, His Majesty welcomed the participation of BIMP-EAGA youths at the workshop on Biodiversity for Young Scientist in Brunei Darussalam this mid-year.

His Majesty stated that the success of BIMP-EAGA depended on the active participation of the community at all levels, especially the private sector. His Majesty added that member countries needed to assist the private sector in developing the sub-region by enhancing the level of interaction between the business community and the BIMP-EAGA process.

His Majesty stated that BIMP-EAGA's engagement with its development partners such as China and Japan could add value to the cooperation undertaken at the regional level such as Asean. In this regard, His Majesty encouraged the Asean Secretariat to further promote BIMP-EAGA initiatives to all Dialogue Partners of Asean.

At the end of the summit, His Majesty together with other Asean heads of state endorsed the Joint Statement of the 5th Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asean Growth Area Summit.

Meanwhile shortly after the opening ceremony of the Asean Summit, His Majesty held a bilateral meeting with Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Both heads of state exchanged views on the bilateral relations between the two countries and expressed satisfaction with the existing excellent ties of friendship and cooperation.

Both His Majesty and Abhisit discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation in various fields such as trade, education, defence and other areas of mutual interest. At the same time discussions on regional and international developments were also made.

Accompanying His Majesty at the meeting was His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

His Majesty also consented to attend various other meetings held at the 14th Asean Summit yesterday.

On the theme of Asean Charter for Asean People, His Majesty the Sultan and other Asean leaders attended a series of informal meetings between Asean Leaders and representatives of the peoples of Asean, including Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Brunei as observers), youths, civil societies, and the private sector, which is aimed at promoting greater people participation in Asean - according to the Asean Charter which entered into force on Dec 15 2008.

During the Leaders' Informal Meeting with Representatives of Asean Youth, the Thai Prime Minister stressed the important role that youths can play in helping create an Asean Community, both as recipients of the benefits of Asean integration and as Leaders of Asean in the future. He also called upon the Asean youth to play its creative part in raising awareness of Asean and reaping the benefits of community-building.

At the first Asean Youth Summit in 2008 held Sept 15-16 2008, the representative of youth expressed their views in enhancing the Asean community-building process along the line of Asean's three Communities. Youths expressed that they will play a part in promoting greater acceptance and friendly relations between Asean nations, support regional economic integration for greater prosperity to the region through the narrowing of developmental gaps, emphasize the importance of self-improvement through the promotion of English education and English as a regional language.

The meeting also agreed to convene the Asean Leaders' Informal Meeting with Representatives of Asean Youth as a part of its annual Asean Summit.

His Majesty and other Asean leaders later attended a working lunch with the Asean Business Advisory Council (ABAC) leaders, where the Asean leaders were presented with the Asean Business Investment Summit (Asean-BIS) Report.

Later in the afternoon, His Majesty joined the other Asean heads of state and to meet His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand at Klai Kwangwol Palace in Hua Hin.

In the evening, His Majesty attended a gala dinner hosted by Thai Premier Abhisit in honour of the Asean leaders at Mrigadayavan Palace in Hua Hin. Accompanying His Majesty at the dinner was His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah. - Borneo Bulletin (1st Mar 2009)