Senator Raffy Tulfo on Tuesday assailed the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and questioned its official if he’s “blind” over the proliferation nationwide of “ukay-ukay” which is prohibited by law.
During the Senate ways and means committee organizational meeting chaired by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Tulfo questioned why large shipments of ukay-ukay (used clothes) slipped by the BoC.
He said the agency should also conduct follow-up operations to run after those involvement in this illegal operation. “And why are we allowing the sale of used clothes which can be seen in all corners of the country?” he asked.
Responding to Tulfo’s queries, Customs Deputy Commissioner Edward James Buco said they have actually been implementing measures against smuggling.
“As we intensify our efforts against smuggling, the smugglers also become more innovative,” Buco said.
But Tulfo said “ukay-ukay has been there for years” and can be seen on street corners, especially in Divisoria and Baclaran.
According to Buco, they are continuously watching ukay-ukay which resulted in the apprehension of people involved in this activity and the filing of charges.
Tulfo said it is time to revisit the law against ukay-ukay as many are not aware that it is prohibited by law, also in consonance with the policy of the Department of Health.
However, Sen. Pia Cayetano said ukay-ukay provides a sustainable and comprehensive outlet for our people.
“It is time to revisit this policy,” said Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee in Sustainable Development.
According to the senator, ukay-ukay addresses two things- giving sale which resulted to useful products, and responsible consumption.
Tulfo, on the otherhand, also scored the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for targeting vloggers and online sellers instead of bigtime oil smugglers.
“Why do they not run after bigtime oil smugglers who amassed huge amount of money compared to vloggers and individual online sellers who earns only a measly amount,” he said. “If the government really wants to collect serious money through taxation, he said it should focus on big fish like bigtime oil smugglers, and not on some small fry.”
While he acknowledges that Filipinos who are earning should pay the corresponding taxes as stated by the law, Tulfo maintained that “the government must know their priorities if their intention is to maximize state revenue through taxation.”
Tulfo, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Energy, pointed out that billions of pesos annually could have been collected if only the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is doing its job to curb oil smuggling.
He said the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law mandates fuel marking in order to reduce oil smuggling in the country wherein imported fuel is marked by the government using a special ink that signified payments of correct tax dues.
To help prevent oil smuggling and ensure that marker is added to the fuel accurately, the government entered into a contract with Switzerland-based inspection services provider Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS).
Tulfo, however, doubted the technology provider considering that oil smuggling continues to run rampant despite its existence and having the marking scheme.
This reality, he said, should prompt BIR, as well as BOC, to prioritize going after the mastermind of oil smuggling instead of targeting vloggers and online sellers with small earnings.