Senators want law prohibiting ukay-ukay revisited amid its proliferation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 16) — Senators on Tuesday said they want to re-examine a decades-old law barring imports of second-hand clothing or ukay-ukay given how rampant they have become in the Philippines.

Senate Ways and Means Committee chairperson Sherwin Gatchalian formally sought the Bureau of Customs' comments on what should be revisited with Republic Act 4653 during their hearing.

Enacted in 1966, RA 4653 prohibits the "commercial importation of textile articles commonly known as used clothing and rags." It requires the burning of these items in the presence of representatives from the General Auditing Office, Department of Finance, and Office of the President.

Despite such prohibition, ukay-ukay has grown more and more rampant through the years, noted Sen. Raffy Tulfo.

"Kung hindi niyo na po talaga kayang pigilan, kausapin niyo po siguro 'yung mga mambabatas para baguhin 'yung batas natin, 'yung policy to make the ukay-ukay legal, na pwede na pong pumasok sa bansa at magbayad po ng tama na buwis," Tulfo told BOC deputy commissioner Edward James Dy Buco.

[Translation: If you really can't stop them, perhaps you can ask lawmakers to amend our law, our policy to make the ukay-ukay legal, allow its entry in the country and pay the right taxes.]

This could also help the government raise more revenues instead of going after online sellers, argued the neophyte senator.

Sen. Pia Cayetano also backs revisiting the law. She noted how ukay-ukay production provides livelihood while reducing the need for new clothes, but also cited environmental concerns amid reports of second-hand clothes from the West flooding some African countries.

"I support the call for revisiting, but we really need to have a full-blown hearing on this," said Cayetano.