By YONG TECK LEE
COMMENT: The planned re-opening of Sabah’s barter trade with the Philippines and Indonesia will help revive the economy of Sabah, particularly in the East Coast, which have been hit badly by the unfortunate suspension of barter trade two years ago.
As barter trade will have trade positive spin-offs on local economies, the government should expand the number of barter trade ports such as at Lahad Datu which already has good port facilities.
Lahad Datu is also a growing hub in the East Coast, being strategically located mid-way between Sandakan and Tawau.
However, bearing in mind that the suspension of barter trade two years ago was a direct consequence of cross border kidnappings, the planned re-opening of barter trade with the Philippines and Indonesia needs to take into consideration the comprehensive security plans and precautionary measures.
For instance, the issue of pump boats has yet to be resolved one way or another. Further, the law and order situation in the Southern Philippines is still fluid.
Cross-border kidnapping affects not just barter trade but also tourism and maritime economic activities such as fisheries, and overall business confidence.
On the other hand, the Southern Philippines has great economic potential, with its vast natural and marine resources which we cannot ignore. The ports of Jolo in Sulu, which was one of the biggest trading ports before the arrival of the Europeans 500 years ago, and Zamboanga City in Mindanao, offer huge potential for BIMP-EAGA (East Asean Growth Area).
The recent inclusion of the East Asean Growth Area in the “One-Belt-One Road” development concept with China will re-open centuries old direct trade between the Southern Philippines and China.
This will impact positively on Sabah’s trade with the Philippines.
• Yong Teck Lee was Chief Minister of Sabah from 1996-1998