'Don’t abuse balikbayan box privileges' – Customs

MANILA, Philippines – More balikbayan boxes will arrive in the country as the holiday season approaches, and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is reminding senders not to push their luck when it comes to sending high-value items. 

"The existing rules are obsolete, and we may have to reassess our coordination and processes with consolidators for stricter and improved compliance," Customs Commissioner Bert Lina said, referring to a Customs Memorandum Order for consolidated shipments from Filipinos abroad dating in the 1990s.  

Balikbayan boxes are duty and tax free boxes of personal effects or 'pasalubong' (souvenirs), sent by OFWs or Filipinos living and working abroad.

Balikbayan privileges have limitations. "The contents of a balikbayan box must not exceed US$500.00 in value. Canned goods, grocery items and other household effects must not exceed a dozen a kind, while apparel, whether used or new, must not exceed 3 yards per cut. Only one consignment per sender during a one-month period is allowed," Lina reminded the public.

Guns, drugs, porn, gambling paraphernalia are not allowed.

The BOC said the items may be considered as smuggled goods citing non-compliance to the Philippine Tariff and Customs Code, saying unscrupulous traders are now regularly importing high value goods in commercial quantities through these boxes. 

"Our spot checks from several warehouses show how misconstrued the rules may have become. People are sending in used clothing, home appliances, and items of the same kind that can well may be used for commercial purposes. Nagkamali ba ang sender o nagkulang ang freight forwarder? Is there misinformation to drive their businesses?" asked Lina. (Are the senders wrong or are the freight forwarders the ones committing errors?) 

Lina added: "Home appliances are not allowed unless these are consigned to returning Filipino residents and overseas contract workers. Don't let any forwarder tell you otherwise. We will seize these prohibited shipments and revoke registrations of forwarders or consolidators if we find any violations" 

Lina reminded senders that the BOC may inspect boxes sent to the Philippines.

"Some people are alarmed why their boxes are delivered 'already tampered.' The Customs are allowed by law to do a 100% check of your boxes but if you think that there are items missing, you can report these to the proper authorities," he said.

The BOC said they plan on consulting concerned agencies on these issues. – Rappler.com