Dominic Cerro, senior investigator of the NBI Sarangani district office, said they are currently monitoring several local traders who were allegedly behind the massive commercial importation and trading of used clothing or "ukay-ukay," which is prohibited under Republic Act 4653, the law that bans the commercial importation of textile articles.
NBI operatives seized last Friday at least 50 bales of used clothing in a raid at a residence owned by trader Bing Campaniel at Depita Subdivision in Koronadal City.
Cerro said they launched the raid, which was based on a search warrant issued by Judge Oscar Noel of the Sarangani Regional Trial Court, following several days of surveillance that confirmed a previous tip to their office given by local sources.
He said the raid yielded used clothing that were still packaged in bales while it was reportedly being moved into Campaniel's property.
"The fact that the used clothing were still in bales serves as evidence that the items in question were newly imported or came in straight from a foreign source," he said in a radio interview.
Cerro explained that under RA 4653, the government declared as national policy the ban on commercial importation of textile articles, usually used clothing and rags, "to safeguard the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation."
He said such law was also enacted to protect legitimate textile companies from the entry of and unfair competition with the much cheaper used clothing.
"Under the law, imported used clothing should not be sold in the markets and may only be used as donations for calamity victims, indigent and marginalized people and prisoners," he said.
Cerro admitted that despite the ban the importation of used clothing has continued over the past several years and has become a lucrative trade in the country.
"The problem, we cannot simply seize any imported used articles that we usually see in the market or in some commercial stalls if they are already sold in retail. There's a jurisprudence that only allow us to seize items that are still in bales," he said.
Aside from that, Cerro said, the penalty set for violators only carries a minimum of two years and maximum of four years imprisonment.
"But we're not stopping anytime. We are ready to launch more surveillance and raids as long as the tips are coming in," he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)