Where’s my balikbayan box?

In time for the Christmas rush, the Bureau of Customs launches an online tracker to help you check if the balikbayan box you’re waiting for is on its way
TRACKED. Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla (middle), Trade Undersecretary Victorio Dimagiba (left) and BOC Division Chief Athena Dans inspect balikbayan boxes that are awaiting clearance and 
release at the Manila International Container Port (MICP). Photo from the Bureau of Customs

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos will now be able to check the status of their balikbayan boxes, as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) launches an online tracker to help them locate packages from friends and relatives abroad.

The agency said that the tracker contains the list of all balikbayan box shipments lodged by local cargo forwarders with the BOC. (READ: The Balikbayan box)

“We have received several complaints from Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFW) families blaming BOC for lost boxes. This is our way of helping our kababayans find their boxes when they encounter problems, ” Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla said.

With the tracker, Sevilla said the public will not be given the run-around by people responsible for delivering their balikbayan boxes.

To access the balikbayan box tracker, go to the BOC website and click the “Balikbayan Box Tracker” banner.

The tracker has the information on all balikbayan box shipments lodged with BOC, including its country of origin; Bill of Lading (BL) number; name of the foreign forwarder; name of the local forwarder/broker; date entry filed; date cleared; and current status.

Peak at Christmas

An estimated 5.5 million balikbayan boxes are sent to the Philippines annually, about 40% arriving during the “ber” months approaching Christmas.

About 65% of all balikbayan box shipments arrive at the Manila International Container Port, while the rest are shipped through the Port of Manila (South Harbor), Cebu, Davao, and Subic.

Balikbayanboxes sent from abroad are usually grouped into batches, and placed in a container van aboard a cargo vessel bound for the Philippines, the BOC said.

Each container van has about 400 balikbayan boxes.

“Shipment from within Asia typically arrive in the country in 15 to 20 days; while those from North America or Europe arrive in 55 to 65 days,” the BOC said.

The agency said that these container vans are filed in a bill of lading and consigned to an entity, usually a local cargo forwarder, which handles customs clearance of the entire shipment and delivery of each box to the recipients in the Philippines.

Police own ranks

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), expects the tracker to lessen, if not eliminate consumer complaints on loss, non-delivery and pilferage of balikbayan boxes.

“The DTI fully supports the BOC in this initiative that can greatly assist consumers on the delivery and receipt of their balikbayanboxes,” DTI-Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba said.

The tracker can also serve as a venue for accredited Philippine sea freight forwarders to police their own ranks and prevent questionable acts and dealings, Dimagiba said.

In November, the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau of the DTI has accredited 654 Philippine sea freight forwarders.

Balikbayan box senders should contract the services of cargo forwarders accredited by the Philippine Shippers Bureau, DTI urged. The list can be found on the agency’s website.

Also, DTI urged overseas-based Filipinos sending balikbayan boxes to list and declare the contents of the box and be suspicious of cargo forwarders offering services at fees that are way below or way above current industry rates. – Rappler.com