Senator Raffy Tulfo has suggested legalizing imported "ukay-ukay" or second-hand clothes to tax them, as they become more widespread in the Philippines.
On Tuesday, Aug. 16, he reprimanded the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for the increase in ukay-ukay imports being sold in many parts of the country and even online.
"Why in the heck tumingin ka kaliwa't kanan, Luzon, visayas, Mindanao, nagkalat ang ukay-ukay? Ano pong ginagawa ng BOC ba't nakakalusot [ito]?" Tulfo said during the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing.
The senator also noted that small-time sellers are obliged to pay taxes on the clothes, while big-time sellers aren't.
"Binibili din nila 'yun eh. They didn't know na 'yung pinagbilan nila hindi nagbabayad ng buwis. 'Yung mga maliliit na ukay-ukay nagbabayad sila ng buwis, whereas itong mga nagparating ng ukay ni singkong duling walang binabayaran."
Under Republic Act No. 4653, the commercial importation of used clothing and rags is prohibited to "safeguard the health of the people" and "maintain the dignity of the nation."
The senator clarified that this move is not against small-time sellers and said the BOC should do its job in controlling the imported items.
"Ang pinag-uusapan po natin dito hindi ginagawa ata ng BOC ang kanilang trabaho... Siguro po 'yung mga maliliit huwag na ho nating hulihin. Siguro sitahin lang saan galing ito? Sino ang nagparating nito? Sino ang consignee? E palagay ko po hindi na tinatanong dahil ang consignee ay 'friendship' na," Tulfo continued.
BOC deputy commissioner Edward James Buco defended the agency's efforts against the smuggling of ukay-ukay goods.
"As we heighten and intensify our efforts against smuggling, the smugglers also become more innovative... One factor really making it hard for us to find kasi ay 'pag tinitingnan sa x-ray yan, for example, there are also textiles," Buco said.
He added that if the BOC won't be able to control the importation of ukay-ukay, it should then be legalized and taxed, with RA 4653 amended.
"Siguro since hindi kayang kontrolin ng Bureau of Customs 'yung pagpasok ng ukay-ukay, siguro we have to come up with the system na, I don't know, legalize ukay-ukay," Tulfo said.
"Kung hindi niyo na po kaya talagang pigilan, kausapin niyo po siguro 'yung mga mambabatas na para baguhin 'yung batas natin, 'yung policy to make the ukay-ukay legal na pwede na pong pumasok ng bansa at magbayad po ng tamang buwis."
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian agreed to revisit the law. "We cannot fault the retailers for selling ukay-ukay because I don't think they know it's illegal," he said.