Online sellers in Puerto Princesa have made a written appeal to amend Republic Act 4653, or the law that prohibits the importation of second-hand clothes (ukay-ukay), citing fears of losing their livelihood amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The sellers stated that they also fear losing their regular supply of ukay-ukay goods after a recent raid by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on a warehouse in Barangay San Jose.
“Prohibiting the import of ‘secondhand clothes and rags’ not only destroys a long-living industry across the nation, but it also prevents many mothers and wives to [afford] clothing for their families. We, online sellers, are also afraid of losing our small business[es] because of the said incident,” the letter read.
After presenting their appeal on Monday, August 30, the City Council urged Congress, through an approved resolution, to propose long-due amendments to the law.
According to April Grace Catedral, an online seller who presented the letter to the Council, they need assurance that their businesses, as well as their suppliers, are safe from any form of legal action. Though they are aware that it is not illegal to sell their products, as long as they have complied with the city’s permit requirements, they still fear that they may lose their source of income.
“Hindi naman kami pinapasara, kasi sabi naman ni [City Administrator] Atty. Arnel Perdrosa na puwede naman kaming magbenta. Kaso gusto namin na mayroon kaming assurance, para hindi kami natatakot,” Catedral said in an interview.
The online selling industry, also known as live selling, greatly boomed in Puerto Princesa City during the start of the pandemic. Many sellers, mostly women and mothers, turned to selling ukay-ukay online to supplement their meager incomes or turned to it full-time after losing their jobs. Catedral explained that her P11,000 salary as a contractual employee of the city government is not enough to support her family. Hence, she would go live after work to sell her wares on Facebook.
RA 4653, enacted in 1966, was created to safeguard the country’s public health on the so-called dangers of transmitting diseases through imported used clothing. It is the main duty of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to monitor the import of used clothing. However, some are able to get through customs by declaring the goods as “donations.”
While there is no law prohibiting the sale of secondhand clothing, the CIDG remained relentless in its crackdown, stating that ukay-ukay is even a threat to public health. This was also countered in the appeal by the online sellers.
“We want to request supporting studies on the specific health hazard that used clothing may cause to the health of consumers. Viral infections are usually caused by human interactions,” the letter read.