Customs chief wants to legalize ‘ukay-ukay’ imports

By Jojo Malig, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Sep 10 2010 06:35 PM | Updated as of Sep 11 2010 02:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Imported second-hand clothes or “ukay-ukay” goods should be allowed to enter the country legally, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Angelito Alvarez said Friday.

In an interview with dzMM’s “Pasada Sais Trenta”, Alvarez said he will meet with 8 lawmakers on Monday to discuss the move.

He said Congress needs to repeal an old law that bans the entry of second-hand clothing for the government to slap taxes on the trade.

“It’s about time na pag-aralan mabuti ng mambabatas [ang ban],” he said.

Research shows that Republic Act 4653, which has been in effect since 1966, prohibits the commercial importation of used clothing and related textile goods.

The law’s main premise is to enforce sanitary and hygiene concerns, and maintain the dignity of the nation.

It only allows importation of used clothing if the textile goods are going to be used as raw materials for products intended for export.

According to Alvarez, the law is no longer relevant.

“Baka ibinabawal to protect [the] local garments industry (Maybe the ban aims to protect the local garments industry),” he said. “There are pros and cons [to the issue] so there is a need to study it.”

He stressed that the government can earn from taxes that can be enforced on the importation of hand-me-down clothes.

“Sa 12% [value-added tax] alone, malaki na,” he said.

He said the ban on the second-hand products fosters graft and corruption as smugglers often connive with unscrupulous Customs employees to sneak in “ukay-ukay” goods into the country.

Around large 80 containers containing the banned goods are currently being stored at BOC warehouses in Manila, Alvarez said. The number does not include containers seized by Customs agents in other entry points such as Cebu and Davao.

He said he is impressed with the quality of “ukay-ukay” goods that find their way into the country.

“Kapag binubuksan ko ang mga container, maganda naman ang laman,” he said.

During calamities, the Department of Social Welfare and Development asks the BOC to release the seized second-hand clothing shipments. The items are distributed to calamity victims.