Sen. Raffy Tulfo proposes legalizing sale and import of ‘ukay-ukay’ secondhand thrift clothes

Buying from ukay-ukay or secondhand thrift stores is a popular way to score cheap clothing items, with several influencers gaining popularity for finding obscure designer goods and other rare finds during their thrift shop hunting — but ICYDK, imported secondhand clothes are illegal, which makes selling them, by default, against the law as well.

Republic Act 4653 is a law that prohibits commercially importing used clothing and rags to “safeguard the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation” — yet this law apparently hasn’t stopped thrifty shoppers from diving into secondhand clothing that manage to make their way into the country illicitly. Hence, newbie senator Raffy Tulfo wants to legalize imported ukay clothing — and impose taxes on them.

During the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing, Tulfo lamented how widespread ukay selling was across the country.

“Why in the heck when you turn left and right, [across] Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, you see ukay-ukay everywhere? What is the [Bureau of Customs] doing, and why do so many get away [with smuggling imported secondhand clothes]?” He asked.

Tulfo also clarified that this tirade was not against small-time sellers but pressed the Bureau of Customs to be stricter in monitoring these smuggled items.

The senator added that small-time sellers pay taxes for untaxed goods, while bigger players — who allegedly smuggle these goods in the first place — don’t.

“They (small-time sellers) also buy these goods. They didn’t know that the sellers they buy these goods from don’t pay their taxes. These small ukay-ukay vendors pay taxes, while those who brought the secondhand clothes in the first place don’t even pay a single cent,” Tulfo said in Filipino.

According to Tulfo, if the customs bureau cannot control the influx of secondhand goods, then the government should consider amending RA 4653 to legalize imported secondhand goods and tax them accordingly.

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