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Balikbayan boxes to face stricter rules

Balikbayan Box

Bago na ang patakaran sa Agosto 1

Senders of balibayan boxes will be facing stricter rules beginning August 1st as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) implements new rules, Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017 designed to curb smuggling.
Among new regulations:

▪ senders of balikbayan boxes to list items, include receipts
▪ restrict recipients to sender’s relatives only

According to media reports, forwarding companies are not happy saying it increases burdens, delays in delivery.

Senders are to fill out an information sheet which itemizes the contents in their balikbayan box, as well as provide copies of receipts. They must also send forwarding companies copies of their passport as proof of their nationality.

The new rule also restricts those eligible to receive the sender’s boxes to their family members or relatives, specifically: the spouse, child, parent, sibling, sibling of parent, first cousin, niece/nephew, grandparent, sibling of grandparent, grandniece/nephew, grandchild, great-grandchild, or great-grandparent.

Forwarding companies have blasted the memo saying it will place a bigger burden on OFWs and their families.

Meanwhile, BOC Chief Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon said there will no manual inspection of balikbayan boxes.

GMA News quoted Faeldon as saying on July 21:

“Hindi po binubulatlat ang balikbayan box. Pagdating po niyan dito, sa X-ray lang ‘yan dadaan. Pag walang nakitang kontrabando, drugs o kung anuman, walang bubuksan,” Faeldon said in an interview on radio DZBB.
He added: “Iho-hold lang ‘yung box mo kung nakakita na tayo ng baril o drugs. Yun lang ang hino-hold.”

The BOC’s no-touch policy on balikbayan boxes was reaffirmed to allay fears of OFWs following the scheduled implementation of Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017 on August 1.

The order states that balikbayan boxes will be inspected for suspicious items.
Faeldon said balikbayan boxes will still undergo X-ray scanning and will only be opened in case suspicious items are detected after scanning.

Faeldon said CMO 04-2017 merely provided guidelines to implement laws passed by Congress to curb smuggling and that the BOC has no power to pass laws by itself.

“Hindi ko po yun batas. Ito po ay CMTA, Customs Modernization and Tarrif Act. Batas po yan na ginawa ng ating kongreso na napakagandang batas po nito,” Faeldon said.
“Itong bagong Customs Memorandum Order ay patungkol po ito sa local consolidators to guide them kung paano nila gagawin,” he added. “Titingnan mo yung wisdom ng batas, ito yung gustong mangyari nun. Para matiyak natin na itong mga balikbayan boxes ay hindi magagamit para abusuhin.”
According to GMA News, the customs commissioner reprimanded some freight forwarders claiming the new memorandum order will add 15 to 20 days to the delivery time of balikbayan boxes.
“Be more responsible in disseminating information that affects our countrymen,” he told them.

Door To Door Consolidators Association of the Philippines (DDCAP)’s counsel Atty. James Ian Dela Vega said the restriction of eligible recipients is intrusive and impairs the privileges provided by current laws on balikbayan boxes.
“Kung pinadala niya po ito sa kanyang kaibigan, sa kanyang girlfriend o sa kanyang nobya, hindi po siyang maaaring magkaroon ng availment doon sa insentibo o pribileyong ibinibigay ng batas,” he told GMA News.

[If he intended to send it to his friend, his girlfriend or his loved one, he cannot have an availment of the incentives or privileges given by the law because of the rule.]

Dela Vega also noted that the rule also burdens senders who fail to provide an itemized list or other papers by being penalized with additional duties and taxes.

However, Athena Dans, head of Manila International Container Port’s Informal Entry Division, said the new regulations are a norm in other countries and are necessary to guard against smuggling.
“That’s a declaration. You are declaring what’s inside the box. Basic naman ‘yan sa [It’s basic with] customs all over the world. You have to declare what you are importing,” she said. “Kami sa [For us at] Bureau of Customs, we have to protect government revenues, sila naman kasi negosyo ‘yung sa kanila [they have to protect their business].”