• By The Financial District


In the middle of a coronavirus lockdown in the Philippine capital, Grace Lagaday was struggling to breastfeed her newborn without milk storage bottles and nursing pads, Neil Jerome Morales reported for Reuters. With shopping centres shut and public movement restricted, Lagaday turned to a centuries-old method of trade with a new tech twist: online bartering.

A search of Facebook barter trade groups found the supplies she needed for her baby girl and they were in Lagaday’s hands the next day, in return for bags of M&Ms chocolates and a jar of Nutella spread. “I really needed breastfeeding stuff but very limited goods were available,” Lagaday told Reuters. “For a mom who gave birth during this pandemic season, bartering helped me find good deals for my baby.”

Reuters has identified just over 100 barter groups, some with as many as a quarter of a million members, have sprung up since the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, home to half its 107 million population, entered a hard lockdown in mid-March that lasted two months and the various forms of lockdown still unsettles people in Metro Manila and major urban centers.

The resurgence of barter trade online is causing some headaches for the government. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez performed an embarrassing backflip in July to reassure people that swaps for personal gain were fine just a day after he warned that barter trade was a tax-dodging illegal practice. That stance had drawn the ire of thousands of social media users who lambasted the government for finding new ways to impose taxes even in amid the pandemic.

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