As holiday season starts, Customs suspends revised balikbayan box rules

MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña issued a directive suspending the revised rules on balikbayan boxes after it drew flak from various overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other stakeholders.

“In view of the valid issues raised by stakeholders,” said Lapeña in his directive dated October 3, 2017 and obtained by The Filipino Times, “the implementation of CAO 05-2016 and CMO 04-2017 and the requirement of registration of deconsolidators are hereby suspended until March 31, 2018.”

The Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 05-2016 imposed stricter procedures on shipping balikbayan boxes and Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 04-2017 is its revised implementing guidelines issued earlier this year.

The revised guidelines included requiring senders to paste a detailed list of content on the balikbayan box and providing purchase receipts for brand-new goods. Under the new rules, recipients of balikbayan boxes must also show that they are relatives of the senders.

The revised rules caused an uproar among OFW groups, forwarders, and deconsolidators who said that the BOC should be going after big-time smugglers instead of picking on the balikbayan boxes. 

Senator Ralph Recto also questioned the new rules and said that the commission might have "committed a bureaucratic overreach" by setting the new guidelines. He added that pasting a list of contents on the side of the box would make it vulnerable to theft and pilferage.

Lapena’s directive also forms a team tasked to draft amendments on the CAO following consultations with stakeholders, indicating that the controversial policy may still be watered down.

Happy Christmas for OFWs

Masaya kami (We are happy),” Engr. Maria Fe “Tata” Dayot, head of the 80-member-organization-strong FilClub, said. “Kahit paano free tayong magpadala ng walang takot na mawala o mabara yung kahon (We are free to send without fear that the box will be lost or held).”

“Maraming magbabagahe ngayon dahil Pasko. Kung bubusisiin yung balikbayan boxes, maraming problema. Mabuti na-suspend. Ngayon makapag-isisp-isip na ang mga OFWs ng kanilang ipapadalang Pamasko. Makaka-pagpadala na tayo ng Pamasko nang hindi kakaba-kaba,” Dayot added.

(A lot of OFWs are preparing their boxes because it’s Christmas. If BOC will scrutinize each box, there could be problems with delays. Now, OFWs can actually send gifts without worries.)

Allan Bautista, LBC Express sales and marketing manager for the Middle East, likewise expressed elation about the new directive, noting that the peak season has set in. “This is very good news. October and November, are very important. These are the months when OFWs are sending their boxes,” he said.

“There are going to be busy days ahead for everyone,” Bautista said.

Following issuance of the CMO, which was supposed to take full effect on August, 1, 2017,  cargo forwarders advised OFWs to start packing their Christmas balikbayan boxes early to avoid the anticipated resulting delays amid the holiday peak season congestion at the ports. 

According to a 2015 data from the Port of Manila, the largest international shipping gateway to the country, Filipinos abroad send the most balikbayan boxes during Christmas when they send gifts to their families. The surge in shipments starts as early as September and reaches its peak by December. – Rappler.com

 

This story was republished with permission from The Filipino Times of the United Arab Emirates.