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Probe ukay-ukay smuggling — Miriam

  • Written by Bernadette E. Tamayo
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 2523

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago has sought a probe into the  alleged involvement of customs officials in the so-called “5-20” smuggling scheme at the Bureau of Customs (BoC).
She filed Senate Resolution No. 1233 seeking an inquiry into the government continuing to lose much-needed revenue to the “cinco hui, lusot veinte” or “5-20” ukay-ukay scheme at the Bureau of Customs (BoC).
According to BoC insiders, the scheme is: for every 25 shipments of imported ukay-ukay (used clothing), five are seized by the BoC while the rest are released to their consignees upon payment of “tara” (grease money) to corrupt customs personnel.
“An investigation must be done to identify the officials involved in this case and appropriate punishment must be enforced against these officers,” said Santiago. She lamented that the government had been losing at least P200 billion in revenues each year due to smuggling at the ports.
She also deplored that the continued proliferation of ukay-ukay stores not just in Baguio City but in many other places nationwide as proof of the government’s failure to stop ukay-ukay smuggling. “Customs officials have repeatedly said they were doing something about it,” she said.
She said that the BoC “must devise and impose stricter policies against illegal importation to prevent this incident from occurring again.” At least eight “big-time” second hand clothing stores, mostly based in Metro Manila, are reportedly behind the illegal ukay-ukay importation.
From 2002 to 2011 alone, the government lost more than P1.33 trillion in revenues to smuggling through the country’s ports, according to the Federation of Philippine  Industries (FPI), which groups together about 800 firms nationwide.
The FPI said that lost revenue from 2002 to 2008 totaled P889.525 billion, with further losses of P119.65 billion in 2009 and P326.75 billion in 2010 and 2011.
It was reported that the traders have been “misdeclaring” ukay-ukay imports as general merchandise, among other items, due to the ban on the importation of used clothes under Republic Act No. 4653 which took effect in 1966. Ukay-ukay importation is also prohibited under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.
A BoC official reportedly said that two of the importers have allegedly been dropping the names of a top official of the Department of Finance (DoF) and two customs officials in their illegal operations.