SULU – President Rodrigo Duterte made good his promise to Muslims in southern Philippines to revive barter trading with Malaysia, particularly in the Sulu Archipelago, in an effort to relive the long lost tradition and help hasten the economy in the area.
Duterte has sent Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, of the Bureau of Customs, to Sulu province where he met with provincial leaders headed by Governor Toto Tan and representatives of various sectors to discuss the revival of the barter trade which had flourished for many centuries in the past.
Among those that attended the meeting were municipal mayors, local traders and entrepreneurs and members of the Sulu Chinese Chambers of Commerce. Faeldon said he was instructed by Duterte to come here and discuss the barter trade with Malaysia and neighboring countries as well such as Indonesia.
“Pag magkaisa sila, I will restore the barter trade sa Sulu. Kasi yung barter trade noon walang gulo,” Faeldon quoted Duterte as telling him.
Tan also shared his memories with Faeldon during the recent meeting and said “during the glory days of trading with Malaysia, there was no outbreak of violence as it is now because everybody was busy with making a living and simply plying their trade. The only thing you need during those times was simply your credibility as a trader and trust,” he said.
Or his part, Faeldon said the government is sincere in helping not only the local economy and reviving the old barter tradition, but also to ensure that people, especially the poor, will benefit from this. “The administration of President Duterte ay hindi nagdidikta kung ano ang gagawin ninyo, instead kayo ng magdikta sa amin kung ano ang gagawin namin and that is why we are here. You are the experts in this kind of business,” he said. “Prepare a position paper kung paano umpisahan ulit ang barter trade sa Sulu and I personally will hand it over to President Duterte.”
Tan said they will immediately prepare the papers and praised Duterte for his sincerity and pledges he made to the people of Sulu, and thanked Faeldon for his visit. Faeldon, a former Marine officer, said he once served in Sulu, particularly in the town of Kalinggalan Caluang, and reminisced those years when barter trading was still the main livelihood of the locals.
“I really missed the Batik shirts from Indonesia and the chocolate-coated candies, the BATA sandal, Maling luncheon meat, processed canned goods that I used to buy in barter trade centers for pasalubong every time I go home for rest and recreation,” Faeldon said.
Locals also welcomed the revival of barter trading and thanked the government for its effort in bringing back the tradition which their ancestors began. “Yan ang hanap-buhay ng mga lolo at lola at tatay at nanay nila. Sabi ng nanay ko noon pa man uso na ang barter (trading) sa mga Intsik at tapos sa Malaysia at Indonesia,” said Abubakar Hussein, a local trader.
Sulu was the center of trade in the past and had been exchanging goods with Chinese merchants. Barter trading with Malaysia stopped in 2016 following the spate of cross-border attacks by the Abu Sayyaf. (Ahl-franzie Salinas)
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