Freeman Cebu Business

Calamities & devious practices

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos - The Freeman

In us, typhoons, torrential rains and earthquakes are so customary.  Year after year, these have become ordinary occurrences and the destructions they brought have become familiar sights.  While these tragedies are inevitable, the consequential damages could have been mitigated.  For one, appropriate infrastructures should have been built to mitigate flooding in low-lying areas.  Loss of lives could have been prevented had we declared areas along fault lines, precipices beside river banks and landslide-prone places as uninhabitable zones.  However, instead of squarely facing the problem, we tend to try to learn to live with it.

However, it isn't at all bad for these maladies we are directly in right now.  As we start rebuilding, we shall see a lot of opportunities we've never seen in normal times.  For instance, amid heaps of debris, clearing operations present countless of chances even to those lacking in skills or inadequately educated.  Home repairs provide great prospects to our carpenters who, for decades, have been begging for jobs.  Construction workers will be in demand as the government speeds up the restoration of school buildings as well as stretches of roads and bridges.  Then, expect a surge in demand for construction materials and medicine.   As demand increases, the need for more workers follows.  In all, these activities shall address employment concerns on the deprived sector, and shall, somehow, contribute to the dreamed inclusive growth. 

While it is true that these tragedies present decent opportunities to some, a handful of selfish individuals may also take advantage of this situation we are badly in.  Remember, we are in a calamity.  Such word alone can be used unethically.  It has been used before and the possibility that it shall be used again presents itself.  For one, when an area is in a state of calamity, the Department of Trade and Industry automatically imposes price freezes of all basic commodities.  This would simply mean that basic commodities (such as, rice, corn; cooking oil; fresh, dried and canned fish and any marine produce; eggs; fresh pork, beef and poultry; fresh and processed milk; vegetables; root crops; sugar; coffee; laundry soap; detergent; candles; bread; salt; firewood and charcoal; as well as medicines and drugs classified essential as per the Department of Health) must remain at their prevailing prices prior to the declaration and is to remain up to a maximum of 60 days in accordance with Republic Act No. 7581.  Yet, as we all know, this provision is constantly violated.

Moreover, as clear as daylight, we are witnesses as to how the sale of “ukay-ukay” (used clothing) proliferated in both the metropolis and the countryside.  Done in broad daylight, it is seemingly enjoying a reasonable amount of legitimacy. 

However, though it appeared legitimate, importation of used clothing is illegal by virtue of Republic Act No. 4653, “an act to safeguard the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation by declaring it a national policy to prohibit the commercial importation of textile articles commonly known as used clothing or rags”.  Surprisingly, despite its seeming abundance, we haven’t heard of anyone fined or, worst, imprisoned.  By its sheer volume, it is unthinkable that these will go through the piercing eyes of the men and women of the Bureau of Customs unnoticed.  Unless one shall opt to go blind, the much ballyhooed state-of-the-art X-ray machines positioned at the international ports could have easily detected them too. 

Unfortunately, however, Republic Act No. 1937 (in particular, Sec. 105 paragraph v.), allows importation of these stuff for relief work or for non-for-profit relief organizations.  Thus, through this small window (such as the situation we are in right now, under a state of calamity, and the regularity of its declarations) of opportunity, some “ukay-ukay” importations have been made legal.  Suspiciously, however, through devious means, it went to the mainstream not to the intended beneficiaries like the typhoon victims.  Thus, the used clothing business flourished.  

Reportedly, these are items dropped off at charities in wealthy nations but are often sold to third world countries like the Philippines.  Every year, over US$1 billion worth are sent to these countries and are rummaged through by prudent shoppers in search of a bargain.  Apparently, with our insatiable desire couple with the relative ease in importing, these quality used items have glutted the market like never before.     

However, before the euphoria each time we rake in heaps of ukay-ukay at dole-out prices subsides, let us revisit our garment manufacturers, especially the home-based ones.   These manufacturers are situated in the countryside.  The liberal entry of “ukay-ukay” crippled this home-based industry.   Unregulated, this is the best recipe for the home-based garment industry’s demise.  Ironically, the government that is harping about employment generation in the countryside, decongestion of the metropolis, etc., is the same government that can’t put even a very thin shield enough to protect them from their hand-to-mouth existence.  Truly, that is the real disaster.



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