Wedding gown in a hill of rags

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

CEBU CITY -- Housewife Lorena Villena was overjoyed to find a wedding gown among a mountain of second-hand clothes sold in a yard in Cordova, Cebu on Wednesday.

Like all the countless clothes heaped in the reclaimed site owned by the Virlo Construction Development Co. in Barangay Pilipog, the gown was cheap. Villena bought it for only P10.

“May na lang ni ipasul-ob nako sa akong daga inig makasal ug Amerikano (At least my daughter has something to wear when she marries an American),” the 37-year-old resident of Barangay Ibabao said in jest.


Hundreds go to the yard every day to buy clothes, beddings, bags and even undergarments.

The construction company sells the items, which came with the building it bought in the Mactan Economic Zone last year.

Cris Vincent Roldan, a mechanic assigned by the company to manage the shop, estimated their daily sales at P5,000.

Roldan said the clothes were not from relief donations. He explained that their company bought the building from a businessman engaged in selling secondhand clothes or “ukay-ukay” sometime in November.

Ukay-ukay in Cordova, Cebu
MOTLEY MOUNTAIN. People scale a hill of second-hand clothes to look for a good buy. These garments came from a building that was sold to a construction company. (Sun.Star Cebu photo/Allan Cuizon)


They moved out the clothes as the building, which has two warehouses, was undergoing renovation, Roldan said.

They opened the yard to customers last December 16.

Roldan said the management thought of just throwing away the clothes, but decided later to sell them to recover transportation costs.

He estimated the 1,000 bundle of clothes in the yard to be worth P1.2 million.

Roldan said the company sent some 1,000 bundles of clothes for victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

The items are cheaper than those in other ukay-ukay shops, with the price ranging from P2.50 to P25.

Bedsheets are the most expensive at P25. Jackets are sold at P15, children’s clothing at P5, undergarments at P5 and socks at P2.5.


Aside from individual items, the company sells bundles at P1,000 each. Each bundle contains 100 assorted clothing items.

Roldan said the clothes were imported.

The clothes are exposed to the elements in the 800-square-meter reclaimed site, which used to be a parking lot for the company’s dump trucks.

Roldan said they tried to cover the clothes with tarpaulins, but the customers kept removing them.

Health concern

In an interview with GMA 7’s Balitang Bisdak, Mayor Adelino Sitoy said he had instructed the municipal health officer to inspect the site.

Villena, who lives in Barangay Ibabao, said she was not worried about whether the clothes were safe as she would disinfect them with chlorine.

She went to the yard on Wednesday accompanied by her two daughters and husband, a trisikad driver.

For the past three days, Villena said they have spent about P1,000 for clothes in the yard.

Roldan said more customers come on weekends. The yard is opened from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. He said it will take months before the clothes get sold out.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized several cargo containers of used clothing, popularly known as “ukay-ukay,” but it cannot dispose the goods through public auction because it would be a violation of the law.

Republic Act 4653 prohibits the commercial importation of textile articles or used clothing to safeguard the health of the Filipino people and maintain the “dignity of the country.”

BOC Port of Cebu District Collector Roberto Almadin said they are still conducting an inventory on how many cargo containers of used clothing are now at Cebu International Port (CIP).


Last week, Customs Commissioner John Sevilla opened some of the cargo containers of used clothing, which were issued a notice of abandonment because nobody filed an import entry to claim the shipment.

Under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), a shipper or consignee has 30 days to claim a shipment. The cargo will be subjected to abandonment and seizure proceedings beyond the 30-day reglamentary period.

Sevilla said that because BOC cannot sell the used clothing for government revenue, they may destroy it or donate it to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for distribution to victims of calamities.

A BOC source said smuggling of “ukay-ukay” happened since 1990’s, but most of the shippers escaped prosecution by using dummies.


The smugglers allegedly used the names of companies located at the Mactan Economic Zones (MEZ) for easy release because there’s no need for computation of duties and taxes as these are tax-free.

In the 2000’s, the Philippine Export Zone Administration (Peza)allowed MEZ locators to import used clothing as raw materials for the manufacture of rags for export to other countries.

However, one of the firms, Pearl City Manufacturing Corp. was investigated by Peza Administrator Lilia de Lima in 2004 for failure to account for the 330 missing cargo containers of used clothing.

The 330 cargo containers reportedly contained 7,795,9445 kilograms of used clothing imported tax and duty-free for 15 months from January 2003 to March 2004.

Peza officials found that the rags manufacturing firms at MEZ diverted the used clothing to the local markets for higher income and less operation cost instead of making rags.

Pearl City was ordered closed by De Lima in July 2004 after the Peza Board unanimously canceled its Certificate of Registration. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 06, 2014.

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