TAWI-TAWI - Food prices and basic commodities in Tawi-Tawi have been rising to almost a hundred percent, as a result of the continuing standoff in Sabah.
Trade relations between Sabah and Tawi-Tawi have been in existence for centuries due to its geographical proximity. Tawi-Tawi is only around 20 kilometers away.
The border between the two neighboring countries have been closed for several weeks now after the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu occupied Lahad Datu in Malaysia middle of last month, thus preventing traders from doing business.
Gasoline prices in Tawi-Tawi are now hovering around P60 per liter to as high as P80 per liter in some islands. Previously, gasoline was at P45 per liter.
Rice supply, which is also imported from Malaysia, also went up to P900 per sack today from P600 per sack. Sugar is also now at a high of P50 per kilo from P40 previously.
The prices of other commodities are also rising, including packed noodles, coffee, and cooking oil - all coming from Malaysia.
"Lalo kami maghirap nito," said one resident.
“Tipid-tipid na lang kami,” said another.
Due to the constant demand, stock reserves of prime commodities are now fluctuating. Store operators said they have brought out their final stocks and may have nothing to sell in the coming weeks if the standoff continues.
Alvin Kwan, spokesperson for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Tawi-Tawi, said the province is now feeling the ill-effects of the standoff. "Dapat ma-solve ng mas maaga kasi lahat apektado eh," he said.
The foreign exchange business has also been greatly affected. In Tawi-Tawi, foreign exchange shops are also on the brink of closing. The Malaysian ringgit is considered a prime currency in trading there.
"Paano bibili ng ringgit eh hindi nga makalabas ng Malaysia? Bumababa na nga ang ringgit eh," Kwan said.
The Malaysian ringgit is now being traded at an exchange rate of one to P8. It was hovering at a rate of P13 previously.
Kwan said this will affect the livelihood of families in Tawi-Tawi, whose family members are working in various plantations in Sabah.