“Institutionalization of barter trade” is an investment for peace and development in BARMM – Duterte

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 June) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said the institutionalization of the barter trade system between the Philippines and Malaysia is an “investment for peace and for inclusive, equitable, sustainable development” especially in the newly-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“I earnestly ask His Excellency the Prime Minister of Malaysia for our two countries to fast track negotiations on the barter trade system as this promises livelihood and income to small communities along border areas,” Duterte said during the 13th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Phlippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit at the 34th ASEAN Summit. 

“The institutionalization of the barter trade is an investment for peace and for inclusive, equitable, sustainable development, especially in the newly established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Duterte said, adding it will “help address endemic poverty and avoid triggers of instability and insecurity in these porous areas of the Bangsamoro region.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte poses for posterity with leaders from the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) during the 13th BIMP-EAGA Summit at The Athenee Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand on June 23, 2019. Simeon Celi, Jr. /PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Duterte in October last year signed Executive Order 64 “reviving barter trade in Mindanao, promoting its growth and development, and constituting the Mindanao Barter Council for the purpose.”

The EO states that barter prots shall be established in the ports of Siasi and Jolo in Sulu and Bongao in Tawi-tawi and the creation of other barter ports will be recommended by the MBC and approved by the President.

The EO noted that under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, an effective preferential tariff scheme is instituted whereby member-states shall eliminate import duties on several products traded within the region except for rice, corn and sugar, by 2010 for the ASEAN’s Brunei Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, and by 2015, with flexibility until 2018, for Cambodia, Laos. Myanmar and Vietnam.

The EO also cited Article V, Section 2(e) of Republic Act 11054, the Organic Law for the BARMM, which provides that the Bangsamoro Government “shall exercise its authority over barter trade and countertrade, without prejudice to the general supervision of the President.”

The 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim government of the BARMM until June 30, 2022, was inaugurated on March 29, 2019 after residents in the proposed core territory in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao ratified RA 11054.

BARMM comprises these five provinces and the cities of Lamitan in Basilan, Marawi in Lanao del Sur, and Cotabato City, the present seat of the BARMM.


Comprising Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, the BIMP-EAGA is a sub-regional economic cooperation established in 1994 to spur economic development in the lagging sub-economies. According to the Mindanao Development Authority, BIMP-EAGA covers the underdeveloped and geographically remote areas in the four-member countries: the entire sultanate of Brunei Darussalam; East Indonesia (nine provinces in Kalimantan, Sulawesi, the island chain of Maluku, and Papua); East Malaysia (the federal states of Sabah and Sarawak, and the federal territory of Labuan); and Mindanao which has 27 provinces and 33 cities, and the province of Palawan.

The sub-regional economic cooperation’s aim was to narrow the development gaps among its member states, focusing on four strategic pillars: enhanced connectivity; food basket strategy; tourism development; and environment.

Calling the BIMP-EAGA Summit a “reunion of old friends,” Duterte said that coming from Mindanao, “I am encouraged by the achievements we have made to accelerate economic growth in our sub-region” in the last 25 years.

The BIMP-EAGA was established in 1994 under the Ramos administration. Mahathir was also the Prime Minister of Malaysia then while Hassanal Bolkiah was also the Sultan of Brunei then.

The BIMP-EAGA Inaugural Senior Officials’ Meeting and Ministers’ Meeting was in fact, held in Davao City, Philippines on March 24 to 26 in 1994, when Duterte was on his second term as mayor of Davao City, with Mahathir in attendance.

“We must continue to take charge of the future direction of our cooperation so that the next 25 years will be even more beneficial to our peoples,” the President said.

To make BIMP-EAGA more responsive and resilient to our dynamic regional and global environment, Duterte said they should “build a fully-functioning secretariat,” adding practical steps should be undertaken towards the establishment of the BIMP-EAGA (Facilitation) Centre.

He also urged Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia to hasten the adoption of a common set of standards on the operation of the non-convention ships.

BARMM’s “vast economic potential”

In his visit to the Philippines in March this year, Mahathir noted the “vast economic potential” of the BARMM, vowed to boost economic ties with the Philippines and assured President Duterte that Malaysia will “continue to be of help in the development of Mindanao.”

Malaysia has been the third party facilitator in the peace process between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) since 2001. It hosted and facilitated the talks in Kuala Lumpur that eventually led to the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014.

The CAB provides that at the end of the transition period, the government and MILF Peace Negotiating Panels, together with the Malaysian Facilitator and the Third Party Monitoring Team, shall convene a meeting to “review, assess or evaluate the implementation of all agreements and the progress of the transition and an ‘Exit Document’ officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both Parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.

Mahathir congratulated Duterte on the ratification of the Bangsamoro law and the appointment of the BTA members.

During his visit, Mahathir in an interview with Cathy Yang of ANC’s Market Edge on March 7, said they will continue to support the Bangsamoro peace process. “We are close by, we are neighbors. Whatever happens in Southern Philippines (Mindanao) affects Malaysia so we want Southern Philippines to be stable, peaceful, and we can then find opportunities here as much as we can help in contributing towards development, maybe through foreign direct investments as happened in Malaysia.”

“Peace will always bring about opportunities. A country at war, a country that is unstable will never grow, will never develop, will always remain backward, so we welcome peace wherever it happens and we think that in the case of Mindanao, when we say peace, it is now able to make use of opportunities to grow best in that part of the Philippines and then I think when the economy is doing well, the tendency towards violence will be much reduced,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)