Sabah to lift barter trade ban with southern Philippines, Indonesia in 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The ban on barter trade between Sabah and its neighbours -  the southern Philippines and Indonesia - which was instituted due to a spate of cross-border kidnappings, is set to be lifted on Jan 1 next year.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the State Security Council decided on lifting the ban, put in place in April 2016, to encourage economic activities within the eastern Sabah region.

He said that strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and guidelines would be put in place to ensure that the barter trade is not abused and is geared towards business.

He said the key trading points for barter trade would be at northern Kudat, east coast Sandakan, Tawau and Lahad Datu.

"It is to help our local entrepreneurs and encourage the business growth for all,” he told reporters after chairing the state security council meeting on Tuesday (Oct 9).

Shafie said that among the guidelines was to stop the trading of subsidised goods like gas cylinders from Sabah.

Following a spate of cross-border kidnappings in 2016, the then state government ordered a ban barter trade that, at that time, was blamed as among the cause of the kidnappings.

“Barter traders were not the cause of kidnappings. It was a claim that led to the ban on barter trade,” Shafie said, adding that businessmen were involved in the trade.

Barter trade has become an integral part of trading activity in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia –Philippines’s East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

A Universiti Malaysia Sabah survey in 2017 found that the trade benefited communities living along the borders between Sabah, southern Philippines and Indonesia’s Kalimantan.

Shafie also said that security in the east coast of Sabah remains at a high level for any cross-border threats.