Angara warns BOC against tampering of ‘Balikbayan’ boxes this Christmas

Published November 4, 2018, 12:05 PM

by Patrick Garcia


By Hannah Torregoza

With Christmas fast approaching, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara reminded the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to strictly implement the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) that prohibits the tampering of “Balikbayan” boxes brought into the country.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara (Sonny Angara Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara
(Sonny Angara Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

The CIMTA, he pointed out, mandates less intrusive examination of “Balikbayan” boxes to ensure that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) rights are protected.

“Malinaw sa ating batas na hindi na pwedeng basta na lang bubuksan at kakalkalin ang mga balikbayan box (It’s very clear under the law that Customs officials cannot just open and rummage through these ‘Balikbayan’ boxes),” Angara said in a statement.

“We pushed for this law in response to the complaints of our OFWs and their families that some items in their ‘Balikbayan’ boxes were allegedly stolen or damaged upon inspection,” Angara stressed.

Angara pointed out that under the implementing rules on “Balikbayan” boxes, all deconsolidators must establish their own customs facility and warehouse equipped with close-circuit television (CCTVs) and baggage x-ray machine for the examination of these packages.

All baggage x-ray facilities shall also be under the control and supervision of the BOC, and only trained BOC personnel shall be allowed to operate the baggage x-ray machines.

“We are hopeful that with this law in place, this will never happen again. Pangalagaan at respetuhin sana natin ang mga pinaghirapan at pinag-ipunan ng ating mga kababayan abroad para ipadala sa kanilang mga pamilya dito sa bansa (Let us take care and respect what our OFWs worked hard for to send to their families who are here in the country),” added Angara.

It was Angara who sponsored the CMTA or Republic Act 10863, which also provides for higher tax exemption on “Balikbayan” boxes.

Under the CIMTA, which was enacted into law in 2016, “Balikbayan” boxes sent by any Filipino worker or resident abroad not exceeding P150,000 in value are exempted from taxes and duties. Prior to its enactment, the tax exemption ceiling for “Balikbayan” boxes was only P10,000.

According to the BOC, the number of “Balikbayan” boxes shipped to the country, which is around 400,000 each month, doubles during Christmas season. But the release of the amended implementing rules on “Balikbayan” boxes was done by the BOC in August this year.

The BOC revised its guidelines after receiving criticisms last year regarding its tedious requirements for overseas Filipinos to avail of the tax incentive.

Under the old guidelines, Filipinos abroad must submit an itemized list with the total value of the contents of the “Balikbayan” box, together with copies of receipts, and a photocopy of their passport.

Under the new rules, receipts will only by submitted “if available” along with a photocopy of any of these documents: passport, resident ID, overseas employment certificate or OWWA card, work permit, or any other equivalent ID.

“Simula nang maisabatas ang ‘Balikayan’ box law, ito na ikatlong pagkakataon na nananawagan tayo sa BOC na ipatupad na nang klaro at maayos ang batas. Sana ngayong Pasko ay mapakinabangan na nga ito, (This is the third time we appeal to the BOC to strictly implement the ‘Balikbayan’ box law since its enactment. I hope that it would be fully implemented this coming Christmas),” Angara said.