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Hot goods, noble goal

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

The Bureau of Customs probably has more inventory than Lazada, Shoppe, and other online consumer goods marketplaces.

But unlike the online marketers/merchants, the BoC is not in the business of selling consumer goods, including electronics/digital devices.

Its huge stockpile of electronic goods is on account of serial seizure of misdeclared/underdeclared/confiscated products.

The agency usually auctions off these unclaimed items or donate them to other government agencies, organizations, and entities needing them.

But a very discerning lady lawmaker has a novel idea with a noble purpose.

Sen. Imee Marcos has called on the government to “turn the bane of smuggling into a boon for poor students” by donating cellphones, tablets, and laptops confiscated by the BoC before online learning picks up in October.

“The BoC generously donated almost 800 smuggled vehicles to the police, military and other government agencies last July. Why can’t it solve the worries of thousands of poor students by donating confiscated electronic gadgets?” Marcos said.

The chairperson of the Senate committee on economic affairs, said that attempts to illegally import electronic devices are likely to increase as social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic keeps product demand high.

Instead of their disposal or auction, smuggled items can be donated by the government 15 days after they still remain unclaimed by their importers, following a notice of pending forfeiture, she added.

In August, the BoC reported confiscating some 29.5 tons of cellphones, storage devices, and electrical items that lacked clearances from the Bureau of Product Standards, National Telecommunications Commission and the Optical Media Board.

The past year, P100 million worth of cellphones, cellphone batteries and tablets from Hong Kong were intercepted in July alone at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, with another P15 million worth of second-hand cellphones, lithium batteries and phone accessories from South Korea confiscated the following month at Manila’s international airport.

“A single cellphone or laptop would be a huge boon to a mother struggling to buy food, pay electric bills, and now access online,” Marcos said.

A brand-new laptop with a 14-inch screen costs about P15,000 to P20,000, while a second-hand one can be bought online for P4,000 and a brand-new mini version with a 10-inch screen for P6,000 to P10,000.

Prices do not include accessories including a mouse, headset, charger, or laptop cover that cost about P500 each.

An Internet connection costs P1,000 to P2,000 monthly besides an installation fee of P1,500 upward, leaving poor students no choice but to avail of data load promos from internet service providers, the cheapest being P50 usable within three days.

“A family with three children would need upwards of Php25,000 to buy two laptops, install an upgraded internet connection, and require one parent to dedicate a minimum of four hours a day to overseeing their childrens’ education,” Marcos said.

“Doing this can cost a parent his or her job or make him unable to find one. Now, how many Filipinos have a spare Php25,000 to buy cellphones, laptops and these now vital educational tools?” she added.