COTABATO CITY — The Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority (BPDA) headed by Director General Engr. Mohajirin Ali, through the Economic Intelligence Division (EID), conducted on Monday, Oct. 3, a focus group discussion (FGD) on the “Informal Cross-Border/Barter Trade” activities in the Sulu archipelago, participated by the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Tourism (MTIT), Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC), Police Regional Office – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR), Regional Maritime Unit BAR-PNP, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG-BARMM), and Bureau of Customs (BOC) – Port of Zamboanga.
This FGD aimed to gather policy questions and solicit recommendations on the informal cross-border/barter trade activities in the Sulu archipelago; obtain an in-depth information on the existing policies and regulations on cross-border/barter trade in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA); and elicit participants’ perceptions and ideas on the subject matter.
In his message, Engr. Kadil A. Sulaik, Jr., Director for Research Development and Special Projects Bureau of the BPDA, underscored that the activity is part of the Economic Intelligence Division’s starting point towards fulfilling its mandate. The EID is mandated to provide reports to support the development of policies that will aid in reducing informal economic activities in BARMM that affects the revenue-generating capability of the Bangsamoro government.
He also added that barter trade is an ancient commercial practice among the people living in the Sulu archipelago, which continues to thrive and evolve with the use of money in exchange of goods.
“However, this traditional trade between the Philippines, particularly in BASULTA, and the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia is often perceived as an informal economic activity with legal ambiguity. Nevertheless, barter trade continuous to have a significant impact in the local economy of BASULTA – be it formal or informal,” Dir. Sulaik stressed.
EID’s acting head Norsha L. Lao facilitated the FGD and presented the findings and recommendations of the recent research study of The Asia Foundation entitled, “Trade in the Sulu Archipelago: Informal Economies Amidst Maritime Security Challenges” to set the tone for the discussion about barter trade.
As a pledge of support to EID, Kayzel Chua of BOC-Zamboanga informed the body that the Bureau is currently forming an Inter-Agency Anti-Smuggling Task Force where BPDA could seat as one of the members of the Task Force.
Melanie M. Indar, Director for BPDA’s Planning and Policies Bureau, commended the inputs and valuable feedback of the participants, saying “The intention of this FGD is to solicit information and gather policy questions that would guide us in conducting our future research and studies on how to resolve the issues on cross-border trading, smuggling – and how we could regulate, revitalize, and formalize barter trade in BARMM.”
Also present during the FGD were MTIT Deputy Minister Atty. Sukarno Abas, Director II Hussien B. Biruar and Snooky S. Guiani from MTIT’s Bureau of Trade, Ahmsia S. Edris and Moeser M. Sailila from MOTC’s Bangsamoro Maritime Industry Authority (BMARINA); General Manager Garib Abas and Gani A. Lappang from Bangsamoro Ports Management Authority (BPMA); PTCOL Antonietto Eric A. Mendoza and PCPT Fritze James Madrid from PRO-BAR; Commander Carlos Dela Rosa Jr. from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG-BARMM); and Rashdy Misa from the BOC. (Mary Lovella Lao-Lastimosa with reports from Norodin Intia, BPDA-BARMM)