MANILA, October 8, 2005
 (STAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - Want to make it in the US? Lose the fake Rolex.

And leave behind the pirated DVDs and knockoff shoes and dresses while you’re at it.

Filipinos traveling to the United States are advised against bringing into the country fake and pirated clothes, bags, CDs, DVDs, cosmetics and even photocopied books and review materials for nursing license examinations. If caught with such items, they could face automatic deportation and cancellation of their US visa.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) warned Filipino travelers against smuggling in pirated items after the US Commercial Service issued a travel advisory.

Now, what used to be considered fashionable attire by Filipino travelers could turn into a fashion emergency — if the US government finds out.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. reported to the DFA that, based on the US Commercial Service’s travel advisory, anyone bringing into the US any pirated item or items "would face automatic deportation in violation of intellectual property rights or arrest and criminal prosecution, in addition to civil fines and penalties."

"Please remember that even one pirated item could jeopardize your trip," the embassy warned.

Based on the advisory, DFA spokesman Gilberto Asuque said in a press briefing that the Embassy noted in a report that US Customs officials are also looking for fake bags knocked off from famous designers like Louis Vuitton, Coach, Gucci and Prada. Even fake cosmetics could fall under scrutiny.

"The embassy reminded us not to take fake books, CDs, DVDs, dress, shirts and bags, because they will surely be seen by the US Customs and based on the advisory, if they see these items in your luggage or if you hold them when you enter the US, for sure you will be caught and the items confiscated or you might be deported to the Philippines or slapped with a lawsuit," Asuque said in Filipino.

He added that anyone arrested for bringing fake or pirated items into the US could have their US visa canceled.

Aside from counterfeit DVDs, which top the hot list of pirated items, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) has also alerted the American customs officers to check for pirated books. This has prompted the Philippine Embassy to reiterate the warning from the US Commercial Service to all nursing graduates who plan to take their NCLEX and CGF exams in the US not to bring in photocopied books because they could face a penalty of automatic deportation for violation of intellectual property rights.

"This warning goes out especially to anyone going from the Philippines and coming back to the US with pasalubong and padalas," the US Commercial Service’s travel advisory said.

The advisory cited a report in which the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) searched the bag of a Filipino entering the US on a Northwest Airlines flight in Detroit, Michigan.

During the search, 70 to 80 compact discs, 30 to 40 empty DVD jackets and 10 to 20 DVDs were found.

Since the travelers were not American citizens, their visas were canceled and they were returned to the Philippines. If they had been Americans, they could have been subjected to arrest and criminal prosecution in addition to civil fines and penalties, the advisory said.

The DFA also reminded Filipinos traveling to the US that their fingerprinting system has successfully been instituted in all ports of entries and they should bring extra identification cards in addition to their Philippine passport to facilitate the entry in the US immigration.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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