Sen. Raffy Tulfo on Tuesday proposed to legalize "ukay-ukay" and impose taxes on their suppliers so that the government can generate income from imported bargain clothes.
Tulfo, who hosts an eponymous program on TV and social media that's known for delivering swift justice to its audiences, criticized the Bureau of Customs for failing to control the proliferation of "ukay-ukay" items which, he said, are not allowed to be sold under the law.
Republic Act 4653 passed in 1966 prohibits the commercial importation of textile articles such as used clothes or rags to "safeguard the health of the people."
"Kung hindi niyo na kaya talagang pigilan, kausapin niyo siguro yung mga mambabatas na para baguhin yung batas natin, yung policy, to make ukay-ukay legal na pwede nang pumasok ng bansa at magbayad ng tamang buwis," Tulfo told the Bureau of Customs.
Tulfo said that while small-time sellers of "ukay-ukay" may have been paying their taxes for their business, their suppliers, which he claimed are members of big syndicates, make no such payments.
"Siguro it's about time, kung hindi niyo kayang pigilan ay pagbayarin na lang ng buwis ang mga ukay-ukay na ito para naman kumita ang gobyerno kahit paano kesa naman tinutugis niyo ang mga online seller na barya-barya lang ang kinikita," he added.
Bureau of Customs deputy commissioner Edward James Buco said that while there have been efforts to curb smuggling in the country, the smugglers themselves "become more innovative."
"Actually we have seized several shipments of ukay-ukay and we have filed cases also against the responsible. We will intensify our efforts against that scheme," Buco said.
Tulfo said he had nothing against small-time "ukay-ukay" sellers as it could be the only form of livelihood they can afford. He admitted that even his house helpers and driver are fond of buying these secondhand clothing items.
"But it's not my fault, huwag sana magalit sa akin yung nagbebenta ng ukay-ukay. Maybe they don't know na bawal din yun," he said.
The Bureau of Customs said they would coordinate with local government units and inform them that "ukay-ukay" items are prohibited.