Plea to allow Kumpits when barter resumes
Published on: Sunday, July 21, 2019
By: Nikko Fabian

KOTA KINABALU: The impending resumption of centuries-old barter trading between Mindanao and Sabah is unlike to bear positive financial results if use of traditional wooden barter trade boats (kumpit) remain banned.

Malaysia closed its border trading with Mindanao more than three years ago following series of kidnap-for-ransom incidents carried out by the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group off Sabah's coast.

The ‘kumpit’ prohibition (weighing not more than 500 GT) is a major block to most Filipino traders doing business in Sabah and the Federal Territory of Labuan when traditional trading resumes in August.

This was disclosed by ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi) Traders Association President Haji Faizal Jamalul. He said at the moment there is no way our local traders are in the position to effectively promote barter trading by using steel-hulled vessels as mode of transportation.

 “We have more 300 wooden boats equipped with the necessary navigational licenses, permits and communication equipments and other safety budgets ready to be dispatch. But unfortunately, our members/traders are crippled when it comes to steel-hulled vessels,” he said.

During an emergency meeting held Saturday in Zamboanga City recently between traders, businessmen and representatives from related local government agencies and departments, Faizal said the association urged to be allowed to use kumpits as temporary alternative.

 “We acknowledge Manila and Putrajaya’s safety concerns... but at least give us a couple of years to comply with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) requirement,” the Bimp-Eaga Mindanao Business Council (BEBC) Chairman said.

He said it involves huge financial capital for traders to invest in steel-hulled vessel and fully enforcing now the IMO requirement is wrong timing.

With only a handful of steel-hulled vessels ready for operation next month, Faizal said surely only ‘big time’ traders will benefit from the trading activities while smaller ones will be left behind.

 “This will mean that financially strong barter traders with steel-hulled vessel will monopolise and control the activities will defeat the purpose of the barter trade system,” he claimed.

Besides, he said the few owners of steel-hulled vessels prefer to go direct to suppliers in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and other neighbouring countries instead of doing transhipments transactions in Sabah and Labuan for obvious reason.

When this happens, Faizal fear that Sabah and Labuan will be in the losing end. He urged both the Malaysian and Philippine authorities to seriously consider ZamBaSulTa’s suggestion.

Traders from the Zambasulta area would normally buy mostly process consumer goods such as coffee, noodles, biscuits, and other essential goods from Malaysia as well as Indonesia.

Barter traders also purchase rice, flour and sugar amongst others from neighbouring countries and brought in to Mindanao by passing through Sabah or Labuan using the traditional wooden vessels.

 “We have to use Sabah and Labuan as transhipment points because most of us do not operate steel-hulled vessels,” he explained.

With the scheduled August resumption of barter trading between Mindanao, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is encouraging local businessmen and investors to also focus on down stream processing.

By doing so, its Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro pointed out that products going out, like fruits and seaweed will increase it value.

 “The objective of the barter trade is to add value to local products like semi-processed, so they would not just be cheap raw materials,” Montenegro stressed.


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