“Considered the BoC’s biggest seizure of used clothing in terms of value was the P52.5 million worth of ukay-ukay from Malaysia and Korea that arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan between 4 July and 11 July 2015.
On 19 July 2018, Bureau of Customs (BoC) authorities put on hold 10 containers filled with P17.8 million worth of used clothes at the Sasa Wharf in the Port of Davao. The ukay-ukay goods were misdeclared as bedsheets, thin blankets, shoes, stuffed toys and bags in violation of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. Importation of used clothing is also banned under a 1966 law or Republic Act 4653.
The smuggling of used clothes in local ports is so rampant that every month, millions worth of ukay-ukay are being seized. One of the consignees of the seized used items at the Sasa Wharf, Zainar General Merchadising, was the same importer of used clothing and rags from Korea worth P4 million that were seized in November 2017 also at the Port of Davao. The BoC charged Zainar with smuggling in January.
On 27 February, a 40-foot container van with P2 million worth of garments from Hong Kong was intercepted at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) after the contents were misdeclared as household goods and personal effects.
Considered the BoC’s biggest seizure of used clothing in terms of value was the P52.5 million worth of ukay-ukay from Malaysia and Korea that arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan between 4 July and 11 July 2015. But two traders and two Customs brokers were charged on 17 October 2013 for attempting to smuggle P60 million worth of used clothing at the MICP that year and in June 2015.
The lucrative ukay-ukay business is driving the smuggling of used clothing into the country. In fact, ukay-ukay was part of the P500-million used clothing and fake products that was confiscated by Customs agents in several warehouses in Pasay City alone in March 2017.
Ukay-ukay stores are as ubiquitous as 24/7 convenience stores and water refilling stations in major cities across the country. The reason is it takes little investment to engage in such business but the profit is high. A study of the trade titled “The Economics of Secondhand Retail Trade: An Analysis of the Market for Ukay-ukay” by Luisito C. Abueg found that in Baguio, a proprietor can operate an ukay-ukay stall for as low as P7,000 a month, including rent and low pay for store attendant.
Of course, the ukay-ukay itself is cheap as this is bought at half the price from rummage sale sites of the Salvation Army in Hong Kong and garage sales from the United States.
A bale of used clothing with 1,000 pieces of clothes can be bought for P11,000 to P15,000, including the shipping cost or an investment of P11 to P15 per piece of clothing. Each piece is then sold for as much as P75. At that low discount price, an ukay-ukay stall can sell as much as P20,000 to P50,000 per month.
Ukay-ukay stores also thrive because of patronage. Even rich people with penchant for imported clothing buy from such stores.
There is no available statistics as to the number of ukay-ukay stores in the country. But the regular seizure alone of smuggled ukay-ukay amounting to millions of pesos at different ports is an indication of the scale of this industry.
Welcome to the ukay-ukay capital of the world.