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Beginning April 15, Filipino barter traders will be required to present a valid Philippine passport and a seaman’s identification record book (SIRB) to enter Sabah and Labuan, Malaysian authorities announced on Tuesday.
Malaysian Immigration Director Alias Ahmad told a Sabah radio station monitored in Digos City that the seaman identification cards (SICs) issued by the Malaysian government before April 15 would no longer be honored.
Alias said the SICs, which any barter trader easily secured prior to the “Sabah invasion” by “Sulu terrorists,” would no longer be recognized.
‘Not aimed at barring’
In the past, the Malaysian immigration agency allowed Filipinos into Sabah and Labuan without passports as long as they presented SICs, documents issued mainly to merchant seamen by the Malaysian marine office upon payment of RM50 and the presentation of a valid medical certificate.
Malaysian government data showed that 18,388 SICs were issued to foreigners last year but it did not indicate if all of them were Filipinos.
Alias earlier said the tightened rule on entry of foreigners to Sabah and Labuan was aimed at preventing activities “that might jeopardize the country’s security,” especially by Filipinos.
Filipinos restricted to specific areas
“This is not aimed at barring them from entering the country as long as their purpose is lawful and they can satisfy regulations,” he said. Even if allowed entry, Filipinos can only move in “specified” areas and face arrest if they venture farther.
“Those who will enter Sabah and Labuan will not be allowed to transfer to another boat until they return to the Philippines,” Alias said.
Maximum period for trading
He said the maximum period allowed for sea vessels “to dock and carry out their trading activities is seven days, without any extension.”
Alias said traders who fail to abide by the new regulations would be arrested at the ports and tried. “The crew of sea vessels carrying undocumented Filipinos to Malaysian territories will also be tried under Malaysia’s human trafficking and migrants’ laws,” he said.
Not serious to kill barter
In Zamboanga City, barter traders said Malaysia’s new rules on Filipinos conducting business in Sabah and Labuan would surely have some effect but it would not be so serious to kill the barter industry.
“Some increase in prices might be noted for goods coming from Sabah, maybe P0.50 to P1 higher,” Mark Basaluddin, chief executive officer of the Canelar Trading Center there, said.