Editorial: Mountain of used clothing

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

IT IS correctly described as a mountain of used clothing (“ukay-ukay”), although the sight of it with people on top is akin to that of a huge dump site dotted with scavengers.

The “mountain” is in Cordova town, in the yard of a construction firm that is renovating a warehouse where the used clothing was originally stocked. The firm and a businessman from Mindanao had bought that warehouse and the “ukay-ukay” in it.

The size of the “ukay-ukay” pile initially sparked rumors the items were intended for victims of super typhoon Yolanda but were instead sold for profit by unscrupulous persons. It has now turned out that the stocks of used clothing were legitimately acquired.


It seems like the owner of the warehouse and the “ukay-ukay” stocked inside it was a firm that was allowed by the Philippine Export Zone Administration (Peza) to import used clothing that were recycled as rags for export. The firm was ordered closed after Peza officials found that the firm sold the used clothing instead as “ukay-ukay.”

The firm failed to account for 330 missing cargo containers reportedly filled with almost 8 million kilos of used clothing imported tax and duty free for 15 months from January 2003 to March 2004.

So the mountain of used clothing in Cordova were not donations for Yolanda victims but seems to be part of a legitimate purchase by the construction firm from the original owners who kept these in a warehouse. But that does not make its presence less interesting.

For one, it symbolizes the magnitude of the “ukay-ukay” business in the country. Even as the pieces of used clothing are being disposed of, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized cargo containers of “ukay-ukay” because nobody filed an import entry to claim the shipment.

Unlike the construction firm, which decided to sell for a bargain the mountain of used clothing, BOC officials may either destroy the “ukay-ukay” they seized or donate these to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for distribution to victims of calamities.

It would be a stretch to say that the construction firm would be able to sell all of the used clothing stocked in its yard. The elements will eventually damage whatever remains there, which is a waste.

But this is what usually happens when the capitalist mindset rules. Following that mindset, the pieces of used clothing are better left to rot than to be given away for free to those who need them.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 07, 2014.


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