BIMP-EAGA is characterized by an abundance of natural resources: vast forests, rich in flora and fauna; extensive oil, gas and coal reserves; sizable land areas for development; and immense freshwater and marine resources, including an extensive coastal zone. These resources have underpinned the economies of the EAGA focus areas, and their shared use and management is expected to serve as the basis for the subregion’s economic prosperity.
Tropical forests are perhaps the most dramatically visible natural feature of EAGA. Approximately 60% of its land area is covered with forests. Timber and wood-based activities have been and continue to be fundamental to the growth of the economies of most EAGA focus areas. Associated with the extensive forest coverage is the subregion’s outstanding biological diversity. EAGA retains some 20% of the world’s tropical flowering plants, which are raw material for a number of important drugs and medicines. The potential value of this market is still unknown, but estimates have suggested an annual international market value of around US$32 billion.
Land capable of supporting the cultivation of a wide range of tropical crops and/or the rearing of livestock and poultry is a key natural resource of EAGA. Given the similarity of climate, topography and soil conditions among the focus areas, there is a corresponding similarity in the agricultural product mix for each area. This similarity is likely to prove beneficial as agro-industrial operations seek economies of scale and more effective access to international markets.
The coastal and marine resources of EAGA are equally important to the economies of the focus areas, primarily in terms of the fishing industry. The potential for developing deep-sea fishing in most parts of EAGA is considerable. Aquaculture, especially prawn farming, also provides significant opportunities for development.
The BIMP EAGA focus areas are already leading producers of major food and agriculture products, including coconut and its by-products, palm oil and its by-products, tuna and other marine products, seaweed, livestock and poultry, and high-value tropical fruits and vegetables. Thus, EAGA offers extensive windows of opportunity for regional operations and complementation in the production and processing of these and other products for regional and international exports.
EAGA’s strategic location has great potential for access to markets in ASEAN, North and South Asia, and the Middle East. The subregion is also an ideal location for the manufacture of specialty products, such as halal foods.