MANILA, Philippines - Bureau of Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez is urging the government to legitimize the used clothes or "ukay-ukay" trade and tax importers of these items.
Alvarez said it is better to allow the entry of used clothes and impose proper import duties and taxes, instead of merely confiscating the items.
On Thursday, the Customs showed ABs-CBN News the newly-confiscated 5 container vans from India and Hong Kong containing used clothing and accessories.
The illegal entry of "ukay-ukay" items are expected to further rise in the run-up to the Christmas holidays, said Colonel Marlon Alameda, the district commander of the Manila International Container Port.
"Two months from now, Pasko na, kaya inaasahan namin yung ganitong pagdagsa ng ganitong klaseng shipment, considering na mabili ito sa market."
Under Republic Act 4653, or the act to safeguard the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation, the commercial importation of textile articles is prohibited. Shipments are only allowed when used clothes are intended to be made into rags.
Alvarez said he will ask Congress to ammend the law to finally legalize the importation of used clothes.
He said even with the prohibition, retailers flagrantly sell the used items that have spawned so many "ukay-ukay" stores nationwide, with the items sold at dirt cheap prices.
T-shirts and blazers sell for as low as P10, while Italian leather shoes cost around P100.
"They are saying it is against national dignity,that it is for health and safety reasons. It doesn't really make sense. It is prohited so nanghuhuli, but when there is a calamity, I get requests from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare Development) to just donate the items," said Alvarez.
Customs Superintendent Joey Yuchongco of the Customs Police Division said that instead of burning "ukay-ukay" items, the agency keeps these in storages.
"Malaki po itong makokolekta natin (if these are taxed). Pag na-confiscate, hindi na nila makukuha."
Congresswoman Janet Garin however, is againt legalizing the importation of used clothes.
She said that this will adversely affect the struggling local garments industry.