Ukay warehouses raided

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014


THERE goes your latest signature ukay-ukay find.

The Bureau of Customs on September 2 raided nine warehouses in the city and was able to seize an estimated P22.4 million worth of branded clothing, comforters and other garments.

Four of the warehouses are in Hilltop, three in Bonifacio Street and two in Magsaysay Avenue.

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These secondhand products came from USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Europe.

BOC Public Information officer and Assistance Division chief Charo Lagaoan told media the raid was in accordance with Republic Act 4653, effective since 1966, or an act safeguarding the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation by prohibiting the commercial importation of textile articles or what is commonly known as used clothing and rags.

She explained these secondhand garments gained entry to the country through locators at the freeport zones or export processing zones such as Subic and Clark Freeport Zones and Cavite Export Processing Zone, declared as raw materials or used scrap of clothing which should be remanufactured and exported as rags and not meant for sale in the country.

However, from these zones, wherein Export Manufacturing Enterprises registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority are given the privilege of tax-free and duty-free importation of raw materials, the products are distributed in bales to different distribution points where they are sold in wholesale by local ukay-ukay business owners.

"On top of the fact na bawal ang ukay-ukay, itong mga importers na ito, inabuso po yung prebilihiyo na binibigay sa kanila ng gobyerno para makapag-import ng materials tax free," she stressed.

She added these have been one of the causes of leakage in the revenue of the country.

Furthermore, while Filipinos have long been shopping secondhand products especially apparel as part of the change in economic condition and preference, the law still exists and must be implemented, Lagamon stressed.

Although the Republic Act was not fully enforced, "It does not change the fact that the law still exists and has not been repealed," said Lagaoan.

Bonifacio de Castro, District Collector of the Bureau of Customs in San Fernando, La Union seconded this.

"While times may have changed, it is the duty of the Bureau of Customs like any other law enforcement agency of the government to implement RA 4653, not bend it even for practicalities' sake,” he said.

"Moreover, we need to ensure that legitimate stakeholders in the local garments industry are protected from unscrupulous and illegal importations of clothing," he added.

Lagamon noted it is the first time the BOC is confiscating items from free ports and it is not the last as the bureau will be stricter now in implementing the law knowing there is a spread of the ukay-ukay trade in the country.

Known as the "Ukay-ukay Capital of the Philippines", Baguio was their first target as it is the port of discharge in the north where most secondhand clothing sold in other provinces in the Cordillera and nearby provinces such as Pangasinan and La Union come from.

Lagamon said while warehouse owners will only be confiscated of their products, follow up operations nationwide will be conducted to identify what cases are to be filed against the consigning importers that will be traced and found violating RA 4653.

At present, the BOC is currently keeping an eye on the free port zones and warehouses nationwide reported as distribution points of secondhand garments for them to trace the importers and to prevent the distribution of these products.

On another note, while the commercial distribution of secondhand clothes is prohibited, Lagamon shared there is no law prohibiting the sale of Japanese and Korean home surplus or general merchandise.

However, she noted it has to be made sure secondhand appliances are tested and ensured to be working properly so that safety of consumers will not be compromised.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 04, 2014.

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