Duterte endorses Tawi-Tawi barter trading for rice
COTABATO CITY: President Rodrigo Duterte supports the re-establishment of the Barter Trading Center in Tawi-Tawi that brings in rice from Sabah to ensure the steady supply of the staple in the Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) area, the agriculture secretary said on Sunday.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier proposed a Rice Trading Center in Tawi-Tawi to stop rice smuggling and ensure a steady supply in the area that recently reeled from a rice shortage.
can be allowed “provided it follows legal processes.”
He added that President directed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd to immediately implement the barter trade system in the southern islands where people have traditionally been engaged in trading with their relatives in Sabah.
During a one-on-one interview aired live on Philippine television, the President said that he initially failed to grasp the context of the issue about “legalizing rice smuggling.”
“What Piñol actually meant was to bring in rice legally,” President Duterte was quoted as saying.
In a news conference before he left for Israel and Jordan, President Duterte was asked by a PTV reporter for his reaction to Piñol’s alleged proposal to “legalize rice smuggling.” He responded by saying that smuggling in any form would ruin the economy.
He explained that his proposal was an offshoot of his trip to Zamboanga City, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu at the height of the rice crisis following the closure by the Malaysian government of its ports to rice smugglers.
The rice shipped in from Sabah actually comes from either Thailand and Vietnam. These are brought in by kumpit, the traditional swift wooden boats of the islands that use the ports of Labuan and Sandakan as transhipment points.
The Zambasulta area has relied on smuggled rice for so many years, producing only 10 percent of its total rice requirements of 220,000 metric tons every year.
Piñol said he proposed that the Rice Trading Center be put under the supervision of the National Food Authority where rice supplies would be brought in legally, going through quarantine inspections, sanitary and pythosanitary requirements and payment of tariffs.
“I proposed that the volume of rice to be brought in should not exceed the total consumption requirements of the area which is about 200,000 metric tons every year, he said.The strategy, which the local leaders of Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi support, is expected to curb rice smuggling and earn for the government an estimated P1 billion in tariffs every year.