As the community quarantine continues to take a toll on people’s businesses and jobs, Filipinos have turned to the decades-old barter trading system to exchange goods without money involved during the pandemic.
Various online barter communities for residents in Iloilo, Cebu, and Sarangani, among others, have sprouted on Facebook to provide a platform for people to trade their items with the products they want.
In Alabel, Sarangani, residents have the 11,000-strong Facebook group named Alabel Barter Community as their platform to exchange their goods for their other needs.
Jana Manatad, a mother of three, shared how she has resorted to exchanging her unused items like stuffed toys and pre-loved clothes for grocery items on the Alabel Barter Community after she lost her job during the lockdown.
“Wala ko’y trabaho, hurot nasad akong tinigom so kailangan nako mangitag pamaagi para maka-provide mi sa among basic needs. Mao ni ang tabang sa barter sa amoa,” said Manatad.
(I do not have work, my savings have run out, too, so I need to find ways to provide for our basic needs. This is how engaging in barter helps us.)
With strained finances, barterers like Manatad have opted to trade items that they no longer use for food and other essentials.
For instance, she has been exchanging her potted flowers for a tray of eggs, canned goods, and detergent. This has become one of the most common transactions in the group, as well.
Manatad remembered that during the onset of the lockdown, her family tried eating lugaw or porridge just to fill their empty stomachs. Bartering eventually became her “saving grace”.
“No work… sobrang hirap (super difficult). But when I tried bartering [it’s a] big blessing to us. Every single day nakakaon nami og sobra-sobra pa (we were able to eat more than three times a day),” shared Manatad who barters at least 10 items a day.
Like Manatad, Kim Guarde, a mother of a two-year old baby, heavily relies on bartering on the Alabel Barter Community to get baby essentials since relief packs are not “baby-friendly.”
“Kung wala nauso ang barter, wala ko kabalo paano makahatag og diaper ug gatas para sa akong bata kay dili biya baby-friendly ang ginahatag sa LGU (local government unit),” said Guarde, whose barter transactions are mostly unused household equipment and potted flowers exchanged for diapers and baby food.
(If there was no barter, I don’t know how I can provide the diaper and milk for my baby since the relief goods being given by the local government unit are not really baby-friendly.)
The Alabel Barter Community Facebook group started on June 5 when locals Adonis Dumpa and Jollyvie Sunga saw the the rise of online barter communities in different parts of Visayas. They later thought of bringing the barter trading system to their own town.
“Makalipay nga through this platform, daghan ang nakakitag hope nga makaya nila ang challenge sa pandemic. Wala jud namo gina-expect nga maging hit ni,” Sunga expressed.
(It’s overwhelming to see that through this platform, many have found hope that they can withstand the challenge of the pandemic. We really didn’t expect that this would become a hit.)
Sunga gave the assurance that their online barter community does not involve money and rules are laid to ensure that transactions run smoothly.
Focus on other concerns
The resurgence of the barter system initially raised concerns from the Department of Trade and Industry.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on July 14 that engaging in barter trade is “illegal” and should be taxed accordingly.
The statement drew flak from those engaging in barter trade as they asserted how these transactions should not be taxed since there is no money involved. Many echoed how online barter has greatly helped them cope with their needs during the lockdown.
So far, only Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are allowed to practice barter, as per executive order no. 64 that was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2018.
Following the backlash, Lopez later clarified that exchange of goods for “personal transactions” and not for business is allowed.
Despite the clarification, Manatad hopes that the government won’t discourage people from turning to barter after seeing how much it has helped those in need, including herself.
“Kaya di nako ma-imagine ba kung wala ang barter. Maong dapat lang gyud nga dili nila butangan og tax among transaction,” she added.
(I really can’t imagine if there were no barter. That’s why government should not tax our transactions.)
If the taxation of online barter continued, Manatad lamented how it will only “put poor people down and suffer even more” as they struggle to make ends meet.
Guarde added how bartering could help people be more self-reliant, and urged government to focus instead on addressing the pandemic.
“Bisag unsa nalang jud pakialaman aning gobyerno ba. Wala man sila nag huna-huna nga way lang ni sa mga nagkalisud karong pandemic. Dako naning tabang sa amo aron di na mangayog hinabang ang ang mga tao diha sa gobyerno,” Guarde said.
(This government is running after petty things. They don’t realize that this [barter] is a way for those affected to get by during this pandemic. This is actually a big help for us so that we will not ask help from the government anymore.)
Although Alabel is now under general community quarantine and work has resumed for many, Manatad ang Guarde continue to turn to online barter transactions to make ends meet during the pandemic. – Rappler.com