Did You Know? 6 Reasons to Visit BIMP-EAGA

Those planning to travel to Southeast Asia may at some point come across the acronym BIMP-EAGA while doing research.  

They will find out that BIMP-EAGA is a good ecotourism destination as all four participating countries cater to travelers who prefer to visit natural attractions. With proper planning, travelers can even visit a few—or several—attractions across the subregion during their holiday, thanks to better air, sea, and land connectivity among the four countries. 

Before finalizing travel plans, here are six things travelers need to know about the subregion. 

1. There is not one, not two, but six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in BIMP-EAGA.  

These are: Lorentz National Park in Papua, Indonesia; Mt. Kinabalu Park in Sabah, Malaysia; Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia; Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in Palawan, Philippines; Tubbataha Reefs National Park, also in Palawan, Philippines; and Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao, Philippines. UNESCO says these sites should be protected because they are “of outstanding value to humanity.” While BIMP-EAGA countries welcome tourists to these sites, they also strive to make sure these sites will continue to be enjoyed by future generations by protecting the sites from abuse.  

2. BIMP-EAGA is home to some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in land and sea.  

With the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle both in BIMP-EAGA, the subregion boasts among the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.  

The Heart of Borneo refers to the rainforest system on the Borneo Island, which Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia share. It has the largest remaining contiguous forest in Asia, extending over 22 million hectares and is home to approximately 6% of the world’s biodiversity.  

The Coral Triangle is the network of coral reefs considered as the global center of tropical marine diversity. It supports the highest number of species of coral reef fishes, and turtles. The roughly triangular area covers 5.7 million square kilometers of tropical marine waters of six countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines. Indonesia’s Raja Ampat in West Papua, for instance, provides habitat for more than 75% of the world’s hard coral reefs and marine wildlife, like manta ray and whale sharks.

3. Why go to Africa?  

In both sea and land, BIMP-EAGA has stunningly diverse flora and fauna. From orangutans, pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinoceros, proboscis monkeys to rafflesia, marine turtles, and whale sharks, the forests and waters of BIMP-EAGA teem with unique species.  

4. You can go local.  

BIMP-EAGA offers community-based ecotourism destinations, where local residents are actively involved in managing tourism attractions to ensure the sites’ sustainability and to provide livelihood to community members.  

In Brunei Darussalam, the Sumbiling Eco Village in the forest of Temburong is one such project. Apart from offering homestay services, community members offer their services as trek guides, boatment, kitchen staff, among others.   

Community members of Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia are also involved in running tourist attractions. Apart from creating jobs, the program ensures tourist receipts are plowed back to the community through health programs for women and children.  

In Malaysia, a community-based ecotourism program was set up for the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, which is part of the Heart of Borneo. Village members run a homestay program, riverboat service, forest guide service, village culture and arts program, and a rainforest eco camp.  

In the Philippines, community members are also involved in managing ecotourism programs in Siargao, Mindanao. Siargao is a protected landscape and seascape. Village members are involved in protecting, developing, and managing forest and coastal resources.  

5. Entry can be fuss-free for some.

BIMP-EAGA countries allow visa-free travel for tourists from the subregion as they are all members of ASEAN, which allows visa-free travel between members for a prescribed number of days. Tourists from outside ASEAN will need to check visa requirements of each BIMP-EAGA country as they have different policies.

6. BIMP-EAGA is just a click away.  

A number of airlines fly to several destinations across BIMP-EAGA and have online booking systems. These include: AirAsia, Garuda Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, and Wings Air.  

In the last couple of years, Wings Air started flying between Pontianak and Kuching. Royal Brunei Airlines has routes to and from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuching, Sandakan, Bintulu, Tawau, and Sibu, all in Malaysia, and Balikpapan in Indonesia. Garuda Airlines now flies between Manado in Indonesia, and Davao in the Philippines. In March, Philippine Airlines will start flying between Zamboanga and Kota Kinabalu.  

Source: Regional Cooperation in the 4IR: Recognize, Rethink and Respond Concept Note 

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