KOTA KINABALU: The ban on the centuries-old barter trade between Sabah and southern Philippines, instituted two years ago at the height of a spate of cross-border kidnappings, is expected to be lifted, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said.
He said the state Cabinet has discussed the possibility of lifting the ban on the barter trade between Sabah with its southern Philippines and Indonesian neighbours in an effort to boost trade and economic activities in Sabah.
“We have discussed the proposal to revive the barter trade system.
“But before we can do it, we need to ensure that proper systems are in place, including landing ports,” Shafie told reporters after Wednesday’s state Cabinet meeting.
He said the barter trade ports were in Kudat, Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau.
Shafie, who led Parti Warisan Sabah in the take-over of the state government from Barisan Nasional in GE14, said that a decision would be made in two to three weeks.
He said the decision to ban barter trade triggered an economic loss to Sabah where many shops were closed and jobs lost in various sectors including transport.
“The decision to lift the barter trade ban will be based on a study done on its impact,” he said.
On April 6, 2016, the then state government announced the controversial ban on the multi-million ringgit barter trade that sparked off serious concerns by businesses, particularly in the east coast of Sabah.
The ban also triggered a higher cost of goods for Filipinos in the Tawi Tawi chain of islands that straddle close to Sabah’s eastern sea borders.
A 2017 paper on the Effects of Barter Trade Suspension in Sabah by Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Business and Economics Faculty found that many local traders had suffered losses that ran into millions of ringgit while there was also an overall implication on job losses, among others.
Barter trade has become an integral part of trading activity in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia –Philippines’s East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
The UMS survey found that the trade benefited communities living along the borders between Sabah, southern Philippines and Indonesia’s Kalimantan.