Prices in ARMM island provinces rise due to closure of Malaysian border – official

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/15 April) — Malaysia’s closure of its border with southern Philippines has caused a spike in prices of commodities in the island provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, an official said.

Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM regional executive secretary has expressed alarm on the plight of thousands of residents affected by the border closure as many of them are also facing the ill-effects of El Nino.

ARMM’s island provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Sulu are closer to Malaysia compared than to Cotabato City, seat of the regional government..

For example, a half-sack of rice costing only 650 pesos has price increased to 950 to 1,000 pesos at present in these areas.

Other goods, including fuel, have started to surge too, according to ground price monitoring reports.

Alamia said the Malaysian government closed its Sabah border this week in protest to the recent kidnapping of Malaysian nationals by the Abu Sayyaf operating between the waters of Sabah and ARMM island- provinces in southern Philippines.

On April 2, bandits aboard a speedboat snatched four Malaysians from a ship off the east coast of Sabah and sped away towards Philippine waters.

The kidnap-for-ransom group has become notorious for kidnapping both foreign visitors and Filipino nationals in these areas.

For centuries, trade has flourished in the border between Sabah, Malaysia and ARMM’s island provinces.

“There is an underground economy that we call smuggling, but for people there it’s the regular barter trading, there’s no taxes paid. They go to Sandakan, Sabah by boat and sell goods and the same time buy products at the lowest prices,” Alamia said.

“The ASG kidnapping activity is now a national issue that is why [ARMM] Governor Mujiv Hataman is currently in Manila to discuss about this Malacañang”, she added.

The Abu Sayyaf is also the target now of military operations after an ambush in Basilan that left 18 soldiers dead and at least 50 others wounded. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)