Customs reminds senders: Use it for personal, household items only

Published November 9, 2018, 4:50 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Betheena Kae Unite

As the volume of shipments is expected to rise during the Christmas season, Filipinos abroad were reminded that “balikbayan” boxes are only intended for sending personal and household commodities into the country.


The Bureau of Customs (BOC) said balikbayan boxes must only contain personal and household effects and should not be used to send items that are for commercial consumption.

Personal and household effects are commodities that are either new or used. Items should only be for personal use and not for commercial purposes, such as wearing apparel, personal adornments, electronic gadgets, toiletries, or similar items.

Household effects, on the other hand, refer to furniture, dishes, linens, libraries, and similar household furnishings for personal use or family use.

Stricter penalties

Further, the Customs bureau also warned deconsolidators and freight forwarders that may face stricter penalties if they fail to ensure that balikbayan boxes only contain personal and household commodities.

Deconsolidators and freight forwarders are in charge of clearing consolidated balikbayan boxes with the bureau. They are obligated to ensure that only personal effects and household goods are sent through consolidated shipment of balikbayan boxes.

Deconsolidators and all other participants who use balikbayan boxes as conduit for smuggling shall be penalized according to Section 1401 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA); criminal prosecution under Title XIV of the CMTA; and cancellation of registration as deconsolidator or freight forwarder.

The penalties and sanctions to be imposed against erring deconsolidators and freight forwarders are provided under Customs Administrative Order No. 1-2018.

The bureau has been reminding the overseas Filipino workers and forwarders to be vigilant about their “balikbayan” box privilege as smugglers have already resorted to use the privilege to smuggle contrabands into the country.

However, the Customs bureau assured the public that balikbayan boxes not subject of derogatory information or are tagged as ”No Suspect” after the mandatory non-intrusive inspections (X-ray) shall not be opened and not be subjected to physical examination.

Simplified rules

Amid clamor among overseas Filipino workers for the tedious requirements in availing the P150,000 duty and tax exemption privilege, the bureau simplified the guidelines in availing the duty and tax-free privilege.

Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 18- 2018, issued on Oct. 11, 2018, supersedes CMO No. 04-2017 which provides for the guidelines on how to avail the privilege by qualified Filipinos on their consolidated shipment of balikbayan boxes.

Instead of the mandatory copy of Philippine passport, the bureau now accepts other documents to show proof of Filipino citizenship such as photocopy of pertinent page of the Philippine passport with personal information, picture and signature, or in case of dual Filipino citizen without Philippine passport, photocopy of foreign passport with personal information, picture and signature plus copy of proof of dual Filipino citizenship; permanent resident ID or equivalent document in other countries; Overseas Employment Certificate/OWWA Card; work permit; Unified Government ID issued by the Department of Labor and Employment; or any other equivalent document except birth certificate.

Moreover, the bureau clarified that qualified Filipinos availing of the P150,000 duty and tax-free privilege are not required to submit the commercial invoices of the goods contained in the balikbayan box. Invoices are to be submitted only if it is available, it added.

Aside from the proof of citizenship, the regulation requires qualified Filipinos, through their freight forwarders or deconsolidators, to submit three copies of Information Sheet, which can be downloaded from the BOC website.

According to the memorandum, the first copy is to be placed at the topmost portion of the box, the second copy to be kept by the sender while the third copy will be given to the consolidator and will be forwarded to the bureau together with the other documentary requirements. It will serve as the packing list of the balikbayan box.

Qualified Filipinos abroad, according to the bureau, are those holders of valid passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and certified by Department of Labor and Employment or Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for overseas employment purposes regardless of profession, nonresident Filipinos who have established permanent residency abroad but retained their Filipino citizenship, and resident Filipino citizens who temporarily stayed abroad which may include holders of student visa, holders of investors’ visa, holders of tourist visa and similar visas which allow them to establish temporary stay abroad.

Balikbayan boxes may be sent up to three times in a calendar year provided the total Free Carrier Act value per sender shall not exceed P150,000.