What they say about the new Customs rule in opening Balikbayan boxes

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What they say about the new Customs rule in opening Balikbayan boxes THE new, "more stringent" rule of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to conduct more physical checks by opening more balikbayan boxes has spawned a lot of comments from the lawmakers.

Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina earlier reminded the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad that:

"The contents of a balikbayan box must not exceed US$500.00 in value. Canned goods, grocery items and other household effects must not exceed a dozen a kind, while apparel, whether used or new, must not exceed 3 yards per cut. Only one consignment per sender during a one-month period is allowed,"

"Home appliances are not allowed unless these are consigned to returning Filipino residents and overseas contract workers….We will seize these prohibited shipments and revoke registrations of forwarders or consolidators if we find any violations."

The new BOC directive aims to clamp down on balikbayan boxes on suspicion that these are being used as a smuggling channel.


Here are what the lawmakers has to say about the new BOC rule:

1. Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said the BOC should just leave the balikbayan boxes alone because these have a “special meaning” to both the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their relatives here.

“It’s a small piece of happiness for our hardworking OFWs and the BOC wants to squeeze more money from them. Aren’t the billions of remittances not enough for these inefficient agencies?” said Ilagan, a member of the House committee on OFW affairs.

“Why are huge containers allowed to slip in without undergoing inspection? Luxury cars can glide like invisible phantoms under the very noses of the BOC. Yet the pasalubongs (homecoming gifts) of our OFWs that do not cost millions are inspected. We are going to the dogs,” Ilagan said.

2. Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said the proposal would only be a new corruption scheme at the BOC.

Castelo said the corruption-tainted BOC should first ensure that all of its employees and officials were honest and not prone to corruption before being allowed to go through the balikbayan boxes.

He said that instead of focusing on petty smuggling, the BOC should answer why it has not caught big-time smugglers or punished its corrupt examiners. He also said that instead of being absorbed with balikbayan boxes that contain “goodies of love” from OFWs, the BOC should first answer why toxic waste from Canada was allowed to enter the country.

3. Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano said the BOC proposal is counterproductive as the inspection of thousands of balikbayan boxes would only worsen congestion in the ports. “Where are the x-ray machines?” asked Albano.

4. ACT Teachers Antonio Tinio said the tighter monitoring would lead to “selective or seemingly arbitrary application of rules, shakedowns and other forms of corruption at the hands of Customs officials.” He said the BOC does not have the credibility to conduct these random inspections.
Tinio said the plan was “clearly” meant to divert public attention from large-scale smuggling and misdeclaration of goods that were the main sources of revenue leakage.

5. Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said he would support the BOC plan only if “it does not further inconvenience or burden our OFWs and become another source of corruption.”

6. Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday called the stringent rules “insensitive and callous.”

“This plan of the BOC is another burden to our ordinary citizens. This is a proof of the administration’s insensitivity to the concerns of the overseas Filipino workers [whose remittances] have been stimulating the economy,” Binay said.

Binay scoffed at the Customs’ justification that implementing tougher measures for balikbayan boxes will help curb illegal smuggling in the country.

The Vice President said the government should not blame OFWs for its failure to curb illegal smuggling of goods.

Binay noted that OFWs only want to share with their families some of the things they enjoy while working abroad.

7. Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the items in the balikbayan boxes are chosen with care by the Filipinos abroad to send to their loved ones back home, and with the random checks, the senders risk losing these items.

“To the BOC, I ask: Have you no shame? For every OFW, a balikbayan box is the equivalent of his or her love letter to a spouse and the rest of the family. Every item inside that box was bought with a specific person and purpose in mind, bought for with the hard-earned money of our modern-day heroes,” he said in a press statement.

“So if a single item there gets lost, can you imagine how that feels to an OFW who invested so much emotion and money just to get those goods home?” he said.

Lina should also forgo any plan to impose more restrictions on the shipping of balikbayan boxes to the country, including new taxes or additional fees, he said.

Instead, the customs chief should turn his focus on large-scale smuggling in the country’s ports, he added. (With excerpts from Inquirer.net)


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