News of ukay-ukay from morgues seized in China affects Filipino consumers

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News of ukay-ukay from morgues seized in China affects Filipino consumers
Ukay-ukay or second-hand clothes in the Philippine market (image: Brian Evans/Flickr)

News coming from China on August 11 said that 549 tons of smuggled ukay-ukay from morgues were seized by the Border Detachment of Shenzhen’s Public Security Bureau, Guangdong, China. This news has recently caused concern among Filipino’s who frequent ukay-ukay’s.

Ukay-ukay’s, secondhand clothes or wagwag are popular in the Philippines. They are often sold in side streets for as low as a dollar. Even celebrities admit to shopping secondhand clothes because they are able to buy branded quality items for a really cheap price.

According to People’s Daily China, most of the secondhand clothing comes from morgues, garbage dumps and scrap yards overseas. These are then sorted, washed and repaired before being sold in the black market.

The news agency also relayed an interview done with Wei Fang, a doctor with the Center for Disease Control in Shenzhen. He said that the ukay-ukay from morgues potentially contains a number of disease pathogens that could enter the body through the skin, mouth, and other organs. Some of the items were bloodstained, which means that buyers of the secondhand clothing could have been exposed to severe liver disease or AIDS.

The clothing items were tightly packed in bales and gave off a strong stench from the chemicals used to treat it. Experts said that the chemicals could cause irritation to human skin.

Experts also warn ukay-ukay buyers that clothes needs to be disinfected or quarantined before wearing them. The bacterias on the clothes could cause skin irritation, gastric disease or even genital infection.

The six suspects, five from Taiwan and one from the Chinese mainland have been arrested aboard the cargo ship named Liyunda who was sailing in from Hongkong. The Chinese suspect had a fake passport is purported to be from Fujian. The smuggled ukay-ukay from morgues have a total value of about $1.65 million, according to police.

The ukay-ukay from morgues are bought at a very cheap price but could be sold for several dollars in the market. Some of the secondhand clothes come from donated items in first world countries. These are then sold off to Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia like the Philippines.