Manila: Border safeguards are being worked out between Eastern Malaysia’s Sabah and Southern Philippines to ensure the safety of merchants and goods ahead of the planned resumption of barter trading in the area.

In reports published in Malaysia, Faizal Salam Jamalul, mayor of southern Philippines’ side of Turtle Island in Tawi-Tawi, said that among the preparations being undertaken for the resumption of barter trade is the establishment of a new Customs Immigration and Quarantine post in the Philippine portion of the gateway territory.

The Turtle Islands is a group of islets located close to the border between the two countries. Some of the islands are administered by Malaysia and the others by the Philippines.

Jamalul said a key concern in the resumption of the barter trade between Mindanao and Malaysia’s Sabah is the security and safety of the personnel and merchandise that will pass through this gateway.

Sabah and Tawi-Tawi, as well as Sulu in Southern Philippines, are known haunts of sea pirates as well as the Abu Sayyaf, a group that professes to fight for establishment of a radical Islamic territory in Western Mindanao.

Jamalul said the Armed Forces of the Philippines committed to ensure the security of goods and people passing through the gateway.

“This post will be manned by security personnel, including the army and the navy. They will ensure the security of traders coming in and out of our borders, even escorting these ‘kumpit’ [wooden ships] belonging to traders,” he was quoted as saying by news portal Free Malaysia Today.

“I will make sure the army and other security units do a 24/7 surveillance of our waters, especially the route between Turtle Island and nearby islands,” he said.

Tawi-Tawi and Sulu had played an important part in trading since ancient times when both the Philippines and Malaysia were yet to become a formal part of the states where they belong to now.

During that time, territorial boundaries were not as explicit as they are today and commerce between these areas were vibrant with Zamboanga City, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi as recognised barter trading areas. Things changed when the Moro war for independence broke out in the early 1970s leading to the eventual abolition of barter trading by the government in Manila.

Realising the importance of barter trade between and Malaysia, President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2018 signed Executive Order No. 64 formalising its return to Mindanao.

Aside from the Philippines and Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia — which are part of the so-called East Asian Growth Area — “are linked by a long history of history and economic trade relations, with barter as a major form of commercial exchange,” Executive Order No. 64 states.