Malaysia restricts ‘barter’ in Sabah
Barter traders are required to present valid travel documents, such as seaman books and passports

A rice vendor in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi says the price increased from P680 per sack to P770 per sack after the conflict in Sabah erupted. He added that they choose to buy rice in Sabah because it is cheaper and more accessible. (PHOTO BY KARLOS MANLUPIG)

MANILA, Philippines – Gone are the days when Filipinos can easily trade goods in Sabah. 

Before the standoff, Malaysia was lax. “Barter” traders only needed to present a medical examination certificate and pay P650 (50 Malaysian ringgit) to get the Seaman Identification Card that will allow them to enter Sabah and Labuan to trade goods. 

Residents of Western Mindanao prefer to purchase goods in Sabah, where commodities are cheap. For Tawi-Tawi residents, it is also easier to sail to Sabah than to sail to Zamboanga City.

Malaysia will be stricter starting April 15. It will require Filipinos and other foreigners to also present passports or seaman booksThis will be implemented in the ports of Sandakan, Tawau, Kudat, and the Federal Territory of Labuan.

Malaysia will limit traders’ stay in Sabah for a maximum of 7 days with no extensions. Boat crew will also be prohibited from transferring to other boats until they return to their country of origin. 

Up to 20 years imprisonment

“The Embassy wishes to call the attention of all barter traders and other concerned parties to the new regulation, otherwise they may be significantly inconvenienced if they are found by Malaysian authorities to be in violation,” said Philippine Consul General in Kuala Lumpur Medardo Macaraig.

Ship captains found violating the new rules could face imprisonment of up to 20 years and fines of up to P6.6-M (500,000 Malaysian ringgit). The ship’s crew could also be imprisoned for up to 5 years and fined P130,000 (10,000 Malaysian ringgit). 

Barter trading is a centuries-old practice that goes back to the time when “barter traders” directly exchanged goods for other goods or services without using currencies. They still call it barter even if it has transformed into commercial trading.

Malaysia’s new rules are expected to affect communities in Western Mindanao. Prices of goods in Tawi-Tawi immediately shot up when Malaysia restricted entry to Sabah at the height of the conflict.

Traders in Zamboanga say the new rules could affect 50% of the total volume of supplies sold in barter trade centers. To cope, they are looking at other countries as possible sources of goods. 

Malaysia also activated the Eastern Sabah Security Command on Monday, April 1. It is a move aimed at restricting the entry of illegal immigrants to the area. 

Three Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security (ICQS) inspection centers will start operating in ESSCOM on Tuesday, state news agency Bernama reported. with reports from Angela Casauay/

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.