Imee: Free Cellphones, Laptops From Customs Now

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Senator Imee Marcos has called on the government to “turn the bane of smuggling into a boon for poor students” by donating cellphones, tablets, and laptops confiscated by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) before online learning picks up in October.

“The BoC generously donated almost 800 smuggled vehicles to the police, military and other government agencies last July. Why can’t it solve the worries of thousands of poor students by donating confiscated electronic gadgets?” Marcos said.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said that attempts to illegally import electronic devices are likely to increase as social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic keeps product demand high.

Instead of their disposal or auction, smuggled items can be donated by the government 15 days after they still remain unclaimed by their importers, following a notice of pending forfeiture, Marcos added.

In August, the BoC reported confiscating some 29.5 tons of cellphones, storage devices, and electrical items that lacked clearances from the Bureau of Product Standards, National Telecommunications Commission and the Optical Media Board.

The past year, Php100 million worth of cellphones, cellphone batteries and tablets from Hong Kong were intercepted in July alone at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, with another Php15 million worth of second-hand cellphones, lithium batteries and phone accessories from South Korea confiscated the following month at Manila’s international airport.

“A single cellphone or laptop would be a huge boon to a mother struggling to buy food, pay electric bills, and now access online,” Marcos said.

A brand-new laptop with a 14-inch screen costs about Php15,000 to Php20,000, while a second-hand one can be bought online for Php4,000 and a brand-new mini version with a 10-inch screen for Php6,000 to Php10,000.

Prices do not include accessories including a mouse, headset, charger, or laptop cover that cost about Php500 each.

An internet connection costs Php1,000 to Php2,000 monthly besides an installation fee of Php1,500 upward, leaving poor students no choice but to avail of data load promos from internet service providers, the cheapest being Php50 usable within three days.

“A family with three children would need upwards of Php25,000 to buy two laptops, install an upgraded internet connection, and require one parent to dedicate a minimim of four hours a day to overseeing their childrens’ education,” Marcos said.

“Doing this can cost a parent his or her job or make him unable to find one. Now, how many Filipinos have a spare Php25,000 to buy cellphones, laptops and these now vital educational tools?” Marcos added.