KOTA KINABALU: The planned re-opening of Sabah’s barter trade with the Philippines and Indonesia will help revive the economy of Sabah, particularly in the east coast, which has been hit badly by the suspension of barter trade two years ago, said former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee.
As barter trade will have positive spin-offs on local economies, he said the government should expand the number of barter trade ports such as in Lahad Datu which already has good port facilities.
Lahad Datu is also a growing hub in the east coast, being strategically located mid-way between Sandakan and Tawau.
However, bearing in mind that the suspension of barter trade two years ago was a direct consequence of cross-border kidnappings, the planned re-opening of barter trade with the Philippines and Indonesia needs to take into consideration the comprehensive security plans and precautionary measures, he said.
For instance, he said the issue of pump boats has yet to be resolved one way or another.
“Further, the law and order situation in the Southern Philippines is still fluid. Cross-border kidnappings affect not just barter trade but also tourism and maritime economic activities such as fisheries, and overall business confidence,” he said.
On the other hand, Yong said the Southern Philippines has great economic potential, with its vast natural and marine resources which we cannot ignore.
The ports of Jolo in Sulu, which was one of the biggest trading ports before the arrival of the Europeans 500 years ago, and Zamboanga City in Mindanao, offer huge potential for BIMP-EAGA (East Asean Growth Area).
“The recent inclusion of the East Asean Growth Area in the ‘One-Belt-One Road’ development concept with China will re-open centuries old direct trade between the Southern Philippines and China. This will impact positively on Sabah’s trade with the Philippines,” he added.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal announced on Tuesday that the ban on barter trade between Sabah and its neighbours – the southern Philippines and Indonesia – would be lifted on Jan 1 next year.
Shafie 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.
The key trading points for barter trade would be at northern Kudat, east coast Sandakan, Tawau and Lahad Datu.