Senator Rafael ‘’Raffy’’ Tulfo raised on Tuesday, Aug. 16 the possibility of legalizing the commercial importation of second-hand clothes or "ukay-ukay" after stating that small-time sellers are obliged to pay taxes while importers do not pay their duties with the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
During a hearing of the Senate ways and means committee, Tulfo said he has received complaints from a vlogger and an online seller who were both visited by agents of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to inquire about their tax payments.
Tulfo said the tax-collecting agencies should go after the "big fish" instead.
Stressing that he has nothing against small-time ‘’ukay-ukay’’sellers, the senator noted that the importation of these goods for commercial sale is prohibited by law.
BOC Deputy Commissioner Edward James Dy Buco agreed that the importation of used clothes is prohibited but he explained that even the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also has this policy against receiving ukay-ukay clothes.
Dy Buco explained that while they are implementing measures against the smuggling of used clothes, smugglers are becoming more innovative.
Tulfo brushed off Dy Buco’s statement by saying that ‘’ukay-ukays’’ could be seen in many streets and corners.
‘’Kahit anong sulok ngayon marami na ang ukay-ukay. Ano kayo, bulag? (There are lots of ukay-ukay in every corner. Are you blind) I’m sorry for the word again,’’ Tulfo said.
Although Dy Buco maintained that the BOC has already seized several shipments of used clothes and that they already filed cases against those involved, Tulfo insisted that these second-hand goods are still ‘’rampant’’ in the market.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who presided over the hearing as committee chairman, said he was not aware of the law prohibiting the importation of second-hand clothes.
Republic Act (RA) 4653 prohibits the commercial importation of textile articles, usually used clothes and rags.
Gatchalian suggested to the BOC to cooperate with local government units (LGUs) in implementing the policy since most people are not aware of the law.
Tulfo thus suggested legalizing commercial importation if the BOC could no longer prohibit it.