VIRAL: Korean tourist shares bad experience in Clark airport

Abigail Abigan

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VIRAL: Korean tourist shares bad experience in Clark airport
It is SeonKyung's first time to visit the Philippines, and says that she never wants to come back again

MANILA, Philippines — A few months after Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) 2017’s passenger traffic surpassed its record in 2012, the airport now faces a controversy involving a foreigner.

On February 18, Sunday, a Korean national took to social media to narrate her bad experience with a Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel at the Clark airport in Pampanga. The woman identified herself as Woo Seonkyung, who arrived on board the flight number LJ023. She said that it was her first time to visit the Philippines.

In her Facebook post, she said that the customs official asked her to pay taxes for the items she bought in Incheon, Korea.

“Actually, I can hardly speak English. The article is also based on the application of a translator. After explanation, we were taken to the small office next door. They kept talking to me in incomprehensible English. Then I heard the words ‘Pay’ and ‘tax’ in my ears. Pay the tax, and they wrote down on a piece of paper and showed me, $137,” Kyung said.

As of posting, the post gathered 45,000 reactions and was shared nearly 66,000 times.

Maritess Martin, District Collector in BOC-Port of Clark said in a statement that the customs examiner on duty named Ramon Mindanao only performed the protocol.

“As a matter of procedure, Ms. SeonKyung had to pass through the Customs Arrival Area to determine if she had with her any taxable items,” Martin said. 

According to Martin, when Mindanao asked the value of the bag and cosmetic products she was carrying, SeonKyung presented a receipt amounting to $677.

“The Customs examiner on duty, Ramon Mindanao showed her the amount of customs duties and taxes in the amount of P6,941 which is based on the rate of duty, value-added tax, and customs documentary stamp. Unfortunately, Ms. SeonKyung refused to pay the said customs duties and taxes claiming that the goods were bought at Incheon Korea Duty Free Shop,” Martin said. 

According to the customs personnel, the value of the bag and cosmetic products exceeded the P10,000 limit which would not qualify for de minimis importation. This meant that duties and taxes are needed to be imposed on the products brought by SeonKyung. 

“De minimis” is the value of goods for which no duty or tax is collected. The Bureau of Customs (BOC) raised the “de minimis” value from P10 to P10,000 in accordance to the implementation of Section 423 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

“Mr. Mindanao further informed Ms. SeonKyung that it is the mandate of the Bureau of Customs to impose and collect lawful duties and taxes on importable goods unless it is tax and duty free,” he added.

Following the customs procedures, a “held baggage receipt” was given to SeonKyung but she reportedly refused to sign the copy of the receipt.

Harrasment and theft

Aside from the issue on the taxes, SeonKyung primarily complained about the supposed rude treatment of the BOC personnel. She shared that the custom official yelled “go back [to] Korea.”

She also complained about the lost of her P70,000-worth watch and the electronic cigarettes of her husband.

“He put the watch and the cigarette he was wearing in the basket and ran out of the checkpoint. When I was running, my husband shouted that my watch was missing. The electronic cigarettes that I put in the basket with my watch disappeared,” SeonKyung said.

However, Martin denied that the tourists were treated rudely. 

“Passenger SeonKyung and husband were treated with utmost courtesy and we politely explained to them the situation. We would like to put on record that Customs personnel at the Clark International Airport only implements the customs laws, rules, and regulations, and impose lawful customs duties and taxes where applicable, and the same customs laws and rules are imposed upon arriving passengers, Filipinos and foreigners alike,” they said in a statement. 

Martin also said that stolen cases are under the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), but they recommended to review the CCTV footages in order to find out what really happened to the alleged missing items.

“The Bureau of Customs-Port of Clark personnel only conduct what our mandate tells us. The netizens and the public also deserve the right information.”

After the incident, SeonKyung said “never wanted to visit the Philippines again.” —


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Abigail Abigan

Abigail Abigan is community and civic engagement specialist under MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm.