GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 August) – The city government is pushing for the forging of barter trading arrangements between the city and the neighboring areas within the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) to help provide alternative livelihood opportunities for local traders and fishermen in the wake of the upcoming implementation of stricter fishing regulations in Indonesia.
City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio said Thursday they have started exploring possible linkages with their counterpart local governments within the BIMP-EAGA for the opening of the barter exchanges, which would mainly utilize fishing boats from this city that would be affected by Indonesia’s new fishing rules.
The mayor said the move is mainly aimed to help offset the impact of the implementation of the new fishing regulations starting December 1on the area’s fishing industry, especially the tuna handline fishing sector.
“We can convert the fishing boats and use them instead to ferry products from the city to any open port for barter trading within the BIMP-EAGA,” Custodio said.
She said the local government has initially sought assistance from the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to help facilitate the opening of the barter trading arrangements and other alternative trading routes for the city within the sub-regional economic cooperation.
The mayor said MinDa officials are currently reviewing previous agreements on economic development under the BIMP-EAGA mechanism that may help fast-track the establishment of the trading routes within the sub-region.
Thousands of tuna handline fishermen from this city are currently relying on Indonesia’s tuna-rich fishing grounds for their catches.
Last June 1, Indonesia issued a new fishing regulation mandating foreign companies wishing to operate there to venture into integrated operations, which imply that companies should not only operate fishing boats but invest in processing or manufacturing as well.
It sets a ban on the export of fresh fish from Indonesia, noting that the fish catches must first be processed and that only the processing companies may export them, among others.
Custodio said they are initially planning to open the barter exchanges with neighboring localities in Indonesia.
She said they are considering similar arrangements with the trade cooperation forged two years ago by the local governments of Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces with Tahuna in Indonesia.
Under the BIMP-EAGA cooperation, she said the Philippines and Indonesia already simplified the trading regulations in the area through a unified Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security (CIQS) mechanism.
“Traders just need to pass by the CIQS through the ports of Glan and Balut Island or in Tahuna to make the trade exchanges,” the mayor said.
Custodio said that based on their monitoring, several handline fishing boat owners and financiers have already joined the Tahuna-Glan trading route using their converted boats.
“They carry mostly local goods and in some instances, fish products,” she said.
“This is one viable opportunity that we can offer to our handline fishermen. I think it’s quite easy to convert their fishing boats and join the barter trading instead of gambling with Indonesia’s fishing regulations and eventually get jailed there for illegal fishing,” the mayor said.
Over the years, thousands of Filipino fishermen have been jailed and repatriated from Indonesia for illegal fishing activities.
Just last month, nearly a hundred Filipino fishermen imprisoned for illegal fishing were repatriated to this city from Bitung in Indonesia. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)