28 March 2013--The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said today that Malaysia has imposed new guidelines for barter traders in Sabah and Labuan, notably requiring Filipinos and other foreigners to have passports and seaman's books in order to enter these areas.

It would now be compulsory for foreign barter traders and their crew to have a valid passport and seaman's book issued by their home countries in order to enter parts of Sabah and Labuan.

"The Embassy wishes to call the attention of all barter traders and other concerned parties to the new regulation, otherwise they may be significantly inconvenienced if they are found by Malaysian authorities to be in violation," Consul General Medardo Macaraig said.

Under the new measure, barter traders will only be allowed to be in Sabah and Labuan for a maximum of seven days, with no extension. Crewmembers are also not allowed to move to another boat until they return to their country of origin.

Starting April 15, the Sabah Immigration Department will also stop the issuance of Seaman Identification Cards (SICs) to barter traders. Previously, SICs are issued to individuals, as long as they satisfied the requirements, including a valid medical examination certificate and a payment of 50 Malaysian ringgit (RM).

Previously, SICs were issued to barter trade seamen who had no travel documents, including Filipinos.

In Sabah, there are three ports allowed to engage in barter trade, namely Sandakan, Tawau, Kudat and one in the Federal Territory of Labuan.

The number of barter traders issued with SICs last year was 18,388 and the number of vessels involved were 1,768.

Ship captains in violation of the said measure will be charged under the Malaysian Immigration Act 1959/63, Section 55 A (conveying a person to Malaysia illegally), which is punishable of up to five years in prison or up to RM50,000 in fines or six strokes of a cane.

They can also be charged under the new Immigration Act Anti-Trafficking in Person and Smuggling of Migrants, where the penalty is a maximum period of 20 years imprisonment or fine of RM500,000 and blacklisting.

The ship's crew would also be charged under the Immigration Act's Section 6 (1) (c) or lack of valid documents in entering the country, which provides for up to five years in prison or a fine of up to RM10,000 or up to six strokes of a cane. END