KOTA KINABALU: Former Philippine president Fidel Ramos has suggested security arrangements between Sabah and Mindanao to help neutralise lawless groups operating across the common borders in this part of South-East Asia.
He said Malaysian security forces in Sabah have a critical role in eliminating terrorist and criminal elements operating across borders because of the states central location within the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Our countries must confront these trans-national criminals with intensified government to government cooperation at both the bilateral level and multilateral scale, he said in his talk on strategic directions for BIMP-EAGA.
Governments in the region, he added, recognised that tackling international terrorism and trans-national crime were among the key concerns apart from easing widespread poverty among the regions population of 50 million.
Ramos, Philippine president from 1992 to 1998 and credited as one of initiators of the BIMP-EAGA, said the regional grouping was set to take off by 1996.
However, he added, this was aborted by a combination of factors the Asian financial crisis, El Nino induced droughts and political changes in the Philippines and Indonesia.
By 2000, these problems became compounded by security concerns, he said.
Ramos said getting the BIMP-EAGA going again would require decisive measures including making the grouping into a free trade zone with the larger but still evolving Asean Free Trade Area (Afta).
To a question from a conference delegate as to how Asean governments could avoid another financial crisis, Ramos said there was a need for more transparency and connectivity among the central banks.
He also suggested the Chinese yuan or a basket of regional currencies could become the medium of exchange to lessen the dependency on the US dollar while the operating capital of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should be increased.