Upscale shopping centers and sidewalk merchants have complained against the mall for unfair competition. They claim that the 168 entrepreneurs are not licensed to engage in retail trade and that their wares are suspect.
The mall sells a wide variety of products, ranging from personal wear to office equipment. Clothes, toys, watches, electric appliances, household wares, furniture and TV sets may be had at very cheap prices. But the shoppers are not issued sales receipts.
Customers come from rich to poor families looking for a bargain. The 168 bazaar has democratized shopping by making imported goods accessible to the poor, the middle class and the rich.
The Bureau of Customs raided the mall last week on suspicion that it is a warehouse for smuggled goods. The bureau confiscated about P700 million worth of contraband.
Smuggling robs the government of hundreds of millions of pesos in uncollected taxes every year. Smuggled goods outsell legitimate ones.
There is more to the case than the violation of customs laws and the question of unfair competition. The Bureau of Internal Revenue should ask about the income-tax compliance—personal or business—of the merchants. The Department of Labor and Employment should look into fidelity with labor and social laws.
The National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency have expressed suspicion that malls selling imported but cheap goods could be dealing in illegal narcotics. The NBI said Monday it had information that drug dealers smuggle shabu by including them in the shipment of contraband.
The smuggled goods seem to bring with them illegal aliens. Most of the traders supervising the salesladies could not speak Pilipino. Those who could, use stilted Tagalog. They are a contrast to the Filipino Chinese, especially young adults, who speak the national language fluently.
The Tsinoys have protested against malls like 168 for competing unfairly with domestic businessmen. Several Tsinoy business organizations have called for a more rigorous supervision.
The presence of the unwanted aliens hints at corruption in several government offices. How could the newcomers enter the country so easily and bring with them huge amounts of illicit goods? Why were their presence tolerated for an inordinate amount of time?
It’s true, of course, that our borders are porous and could be breached anytime by strangers. Nobody guards our shores. Human smuggling goes on at many airports and seaports. Poachers can fish here almost at will.
The immigration office has encouraged unbridled immigration by allowing mainland Chinese to enter the country without a tourist visa, issuing them the document on arrival. The unprecedented program—in the name of tourism—is supported by the Departments of Tourism and of Foreign Affairs.
Fashionistas love Tutuban Mall because it’s where they buy wardrobe staples. It’s a fact that some of Manila’s best-dressed women go to Divisoria to buy nonbranded clothes, bags and even footwear.
So what are the best fashion buys at Tutuban Mall?
Tank tops in basic colors. Why buy a white tank top for P500 or more? A white cotton tank at Tutuban Mall costs only about P100 or if you’re a good haggler, even a little less. Choose white and basic colors because the brightly colored ones look a bit gaudy.
Capri pants. Tutuban Mall has beautiful flat-front Capri pants made out of stretch material for about P200. The pants come in cute colors like aqua, lilac and old rose. Some have scalloped hems, which are really cute and dainty. I know someone who wears these pants to the office and her colleagues think she buys her pants from Mango.
Flipflops. Good for you if you can afford Havaianas, the Brazilian brand that costs at least P700 per pair. If you’re on a budget, however, go to Divisoria and buy the knock-off for P150. It looks just as good although the rubber is not as soft as the original.
Pajamas. Pajamas from Victoria’s Secret are not for daily wear. Find cheap flannel ones at Tutuban Mall. A pair costs only about P120 and the designs are cute and dainty. They can withstand more than 10 washings before they start to fall apart. Not bad, right?
Beaded slippers. In China, these beaded slippers are used for the summer because they’re light and cool on the feet. They’re available for P250 upwards. These slippers are really stylish and look good when worn with cropped jeans and skirts.
Canvas bags. Big and small canvas bags cost P70 to P200 here. The stripped ones are quite fashionable, too. For kids, there are super-cheap small canvas bags with cartoon characters and they start at P40 each.
Faux silver jewelry. Where can you find faux silver earrings for less that P50? They’re in abundance at Tutuban Mall. The designs are very nice. I like the giant silver hoops, which are priced at P90. Surprisingly, the Divi jewelry takes some time before it starts to tarnish so if you’re the type who wants quantity over quality in accessories, buy now.
Jogging pants. Juicy couture imitations are abundant in Divisoria. There are also pairs with no labels for P100 to P150. Other highly imitated brands are Abercrombie and Fitch and Gap. The “branded” ones cost more than those without labels.
Denim jackets. Whether you like it or not, denim jackets are here to stay. The secret to making it look fashionable is in accessorizing. Wear a denim jacket with black pants, it’s a great look popularized by Mariah Carey. At Tutuban, you can get a decent denim jacket for about P300.