Ukay-ukay lovers, beware. Your shopping go-to might raise its prices in the near future and it won’t just be because of inflation. The possibility of the ukay-ukay tax is upon us again.
The subject of ukay-ukay regulation was revisited when Senator Raffy Tulfo proposed on Aug. 16 that imported secondhand garments should be legalized so the government could derive income from it.
Tulfo made the proposal during the Senate Committee on Ways and Means hearing as he brought up that the Bureau of Customs has failed to control the influx of ukay-ukay imports. Incoming committee chairperson Senator Sherwin Gatchalian promised to look into amending Republic Act No. 4653, which prohibits the commercial importation of used clothing and rags to safeguard public health and maintain dignity.
“Sa aking nakita, ang mga retailer, for example ‘yung mga nagbebenta ng ukay-ukay, may business permit sila, may resibo sila, wala silang problema. Ang nagiging problema ‘yung mga importer. Dahil ‘yung importer, sila ‘yung ‘di nagbabayad ng buwis,” Gatchalian said about ukay-ukay smuggling.
Taxing "ukay-ukay" anti-poor, revive local garments industry instead!
Rep. @ArleneBrosas said that the proposal to impose taxes on "ukay-ukay" or the selling of used clothes is anti-poor since many rely on ukay-ukay stores to buy cheap clothes.
However, Rep. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party pointed out that it’s not just importers who will be affected by the taxation and reiterated that it brings more competition for the local garments industry. “Ang pagpapataw ng buwis dito ay magkakaroon ng epekto hindi lamang sa mga bumibili nito pero pati na rin sa mga maliliit na negosyante at online sellers na umaasa sa ukay-ukay para sa kanilang kabuhayan,” Brosas said.
“Repealing [RA 4653] will further open the country to unlimited importation of garments and deny any chance at reviving the local garments industry,” Brosas added. “RA 4653, which declared the importation of used clothing as illegal, was created as a protectionist measure for the local garment industry. Buhayin natin ang ating lokal na industriya upang hindi na umasa ang mamamayan sa secondhand at makagawa pa ng mas maraming trabaho.”
Under former Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, there were talks of legalizing ukay-ukay but this was met with strong pushback from industry leaders who believed that it would dissuade investments in the textile and garments industry. It’s interesting to note that there are local groups like Fashion Revolution Philippines that are for the amendment for sustainability reasons.
Our sister brand NoliSoli previously wrote about how taking away secondhand goods as a viable option not only affects people dependent on it but also disrupts the flow of a more sustainable circular economy, thus taking a toll on the environment. If the appeal of ukay-ukay for most people is affordability, would higher prices cause buyers to jump ship to cheap fast fashion?
If the Senate goes through with amending the law and the burden of taxes fall mostly on ukay-ukay consumers and business owners instead of foreign importers, our country might end up with more problems rather than less.