DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 5 July) – The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) wants to improve the supply of electricity in the island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to encourage the establishment of more processing facilities there so that local goods traded under the centuries-old barter system can be sold to Malaysia and Indonesia at a higher price.
MinDA Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro said despite the excess in the power supply in the Mindanao grid, supply remains insufficient in most areas of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, with electricity available only for 12 hours on a daily average.
The island provinces reportedly get their supply of power from diesel-run generators.
Montenegro said the power supply shortage discourages the establishment of more processing plants, forcing the farmers to sell their raw products at a lower price under a barter system considered a “shadow economy” due to lack of government regulation.
Traders from Tawi-Tawi and Sulu would buy mostly processed consumer goods such as coffee, noodles, biscuits, and other items like apparels and cosmetic products.
Montenegro pointed out that products going out, like fresh fruits and seaweeds, have smaller value. He said the objective of the barter trade is to add value to the local products, like semi-processed, so they would not just be cheap raw materials.
The Philippine government will resume next month the centuries-old practice of the barter trading at the border areas of Mindanao, Malaysia, and Indonesia more than three years after Malaysia closed its border with southern Philippines after the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped four Malaysians off Sabah coast.
Montenegro said the MinDA, in partnership with United Nations Industrial Development Authority (UNIDO), would introduce a hybrid solar and diesel technology to increase the number of hours with available power.
A press release from MinDA said that its partnership with UNIDO will focus on renewable energy hybridization project in the seaweed farming municipalities of Sitangkai, Sibutu, Panglima Sugala in Sulu, and Tandubas in Tawi-Tawi.
The partnership is among the awarded rural electrification projects funded under Access to Sustainable Energy Program of the European Union with five out of the seven awarded projects on pro-poor and climate-resilient innovative energy solutions coming from Mindanao. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)