Bureau of Customs Commissioner Bert Lina continues to stay under public scrutiny as the issue on balikbayan boxes continues. The BOC head sparked controversy after declaring that stricter inspections will be done on balikbayan boxes to make sure that they do not exceed the limits set for such packages.
Stricter Implementation of Existing Rules
According to Lina, inspection of the boxes going through Customs has always been part of the existing guidelines to begin with. The bureau’s official statement also says that they have suffered from tremendous losses because of smugglers using balikbayan boxes and consolidated shipments.
“The measure is needed to deal with the abuse on the rules on consolidated shipments,” the BOC statement reads, “We are not after the OFWs or their pasalubong to families.”
The current limits mandate that the contents of each balikbayan box should not have a value exceeding $500. Grocery items, canned goods, and the like should also not exceed a dozen for each kind. Apparel should not be more than 3 yards per cut.
Other Officials Oppose Lina’s Move
Despite Lina’s claims that the law sides with them, a number of public officials have openly expressed their disagreement with the Customs Commissioner.
Senator Ralph Recto advises the BOC not to focus too much on the balikbayan boxes, but on better intelligence work instead. He also suggested that the ceiling amount of $500, which was mandated back in 1990, should be tripled considering that overseas workers sent in $48B last year.
QC Representative Winston Castelo also points out that balikbayan boxes are duty- and tax-free to begin with, and this exemption should be seen as a favor for all the economic contributions made by the workers sending them.
Others were also quick to point out other issues that have been happening within the BOC’s own backyard. The fact that under-declared luxury cars, fake rice, and other similar commodities escaped the bureau’s eyes fed more fuel to the flame, and caused other politicians to ask whether nitpicking on balikbayan boxes is being done to cover up the BOCs own failures.
As for the OFWs concerned, they have taken their concerns straight to social media to get much-deserved sympathy from fellow Filipinos. A lot have also expressed concerns over Customs officers mishandling their boxes, with a lot of its contents missing once forwarded to the intended recipients.
Different overseas Filipino worker groups have encouraged fellow workers to stop sending balikbayan boxes temporarily as a form of protest.
I am a mother, a wife and a technology loving Filipina who loves reading hi-fiction books (dragons!) , good stories, dancing, laughter, lying on the grass and eating balut. I am born and raised in the Philippines and now resides in Australia but finds myself in the Philippines for at least 3 months a year. I am part of the Filipino Australian Community and have been living between Australia and the Philippines since 2007.