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Retailers back move to legalize ukay-ukay importation

A worker carries a bale of used clothing (ukay-ukay) along Bangbang Street in Sta. Cruz, Manila, Aug. 17. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ EDD GUMBAN

By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

LOCAL RETAILERS are backing a senator’s proposal to legalize the commercial importation of secondhand garments, also known as “ukay-ukay,” as this would mean sellers will now have to pay taxes.

“If they will legalize it, it should be a welcome development because that means they will be paying the same taxes that (legal) retailers also pay,” Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) President Rosemarie B. Ong told BusinessWorld in a mobile phone message.

Ms. Ong said retailers are not worried about the competition from ukay-ukay sellers, once their operations are legalized.

“We are not worried as long as it (ukay-ukay) is legalized,” Ms. Ong said.

Alice T. Liu, chief retail officer of The Penshoppe Group (GOLDEN ABC, Inc.), said in a statement sent to BusinessWorld that they are supportive of the proposal to legalize commercial imports of used clothing.

“Legitimization will benefit the economy because any legitimate business should rightfully pay correct taxes with no exceptions,” Ms. Liu said.   

Aside from used clothing, Ms. Liu said legitimate retailers are also concerned about counterfeit products now flooding the market.

“A concern that is equally pressing for us is the influx of counterfeit goods that have flooded the market along with the secondhand garments,” Ms. Liu said.  “As such, measures to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights should also be considered in the discussion of this proposal.”

Earlier this week, Senator Rafael T. Tulfo suggested the legalization of commercial importation of ukay-ukay, noting that the Bureau of Customs (BoC) has been unable to stop smuggling of used clothing.

“I think it’s about time, if the BoC can’t control the importation of ukay-ukay, we make them pay taxes so that the government can earn from this in some way,” Mr. Tulfo has said.

Republic Act No. 4653, which was enacted in 1966, prohibits the commercial importation of used clothing to “safeguard the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation.”   

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