'BOC reminder on balikbayan boxes vs smugglers, not OFWs'
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs' reminder to not abuse balikbayan box privileges is a deterrent to smuggling and not meant to single out overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Malacañang said on Saturday, August 22.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte gave the assurance in an interview on state-run Radyo ng Bayan, amid concerns raised by OFWs and criticism over the BOC move to tighten the screening of balikbayan boxes.
She said the BOC was prompted to impose tighter rules on balikbayan boxes as there have been instances when smugglers have used them to circumvent the law.
According to Valte, customs officials discovered that some smugglers bring in parts of dismantled items in balikbayan boses, then rebuilt them after getting past the BOC.
She added: "Our OFWs are not being targetted. We directed the BOC to ensure that the process is quick and orderly and...will not cause any hold up in the release of the balikbayan boxes and that the property inside should be respected as well."
Valte urged OFWs to give the government feedback on the tighter BOC screening of balikbayan boxes, so that their concerns can be addressed.
Customs Commissioner Bert Lina had earlier reminded Filipinos abroad on what balikbayan boxes are allowed to contain under Philippine law – items that are not of commercial quantity and should not exceed $500 in value.
Vice President Jejomar Binay criticized the government on the BOC reminder, saying that it should not target OFWs, who only want their families back home to have a taste of food and other items sold in their country of work.
Binay said instead of "singling out" OFWs, the government should run after big-time smugglers. – Rappler.com
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