Indonesia eyes increased trade with Mindanao

Posted on March 20, 2017

DAVAO CITY -- More robust trade between Indonesia and the Philippines, particularly within the areas of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines (BIMP) sub-regional grouping, is expected with the soon-to-be-launched Davao-General Santos-Bitung roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) cargo route and increased marketing initiatives.

“During the last five years, the trade between the Philippine and Indonesia was only $4.5 billion with a growth rate of less than 1%,” Indonesian Consul General Berlian Napitupulu said during the opening last Friday of the 1st Indonesian Food and Beverage Expo (IFBE) at the House of Indonesia here.

The annual trade growth between the two countries, he said, was no more than 0.41% in the last five years, with Indonesia ranking 9th in 2015 among the Philippines’ trade partners, way below Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

“Two weeks after my arrival in Davao I visited several cities in Mindanao and found out that some Indonesian products were already in the market,” he said.

Unfortunately, he added, some of these were shipped in through other countries, which does not get counted as part of the direct trade data.

Mr. Napitupulu said Filipino awareness of Indonesian products also seems to be low, which is why he initiated the IFBE alongside the Indonesian Culinary Festival at the Marco Polo Hotel from March 17-19.

Other events in the pipeline include trade promotion, art and cultural expo, business forum and seminars.

“All of these are focused on increasing economic and trade relation and people-to-people contact between Indonesia and Mindanao,” he said.

Meanwhile, Secretary Datu HJ Abul Khayr D. Alonto, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said the holding of the IFBE celebrates the bond between the neighboring countries as well as puts food security into focus.

“As members of the BIMP-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), both the Philippines and Indonesia have the mandate that underscores the importance of achieving food security within our sub-region,” Mr. Alonto said at the event opening.

This mandate, he added, can only be fully achieved by optimizing economic opportunities for small-holder farmers and entrepreneurs, who were among those who participated in the expo.

“This is the brand of inclusivity that we want for the sub-region in fulfilling its development goals, as envisioned in the BIMP-EAGA Vision or BEV 2025,” he said.

The BIMP-EAGA covers the provinces of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and West Papua in Indonesia; the islands of Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines; the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in Malaysia; and the sultanate of Brunei Darussalam.

Mr. Alonto said there is also an increasing interest in Mindanao’s halal industry, which the sector should take advantage of.

The MinDA chair said the new RoRo cargo service, which will be launched April 30 in Davao City, will be the first of several proposed connectivity projects that are expected to benefit exporters and importers.

“Once opened, this new route will provide a cost and time-efficient alternative to the usual Manila to Jakarta to Bitung route, which would take about three to five weeks of shipping time,” Mr. Alonto said.

In contrast, direct shipping from Bitung to the Mindanao cities of Davao and General Santos will take only one day and a half of sailing, excluding port stay. -- Carmencita A. Carillo