Anger over Philippine customs' plans to inspect cargo

Philippine customs officials announced they will randomly inspect 'balikbayan boxes' and impose tax on taxable goods, due to suspected misuse.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Thousands of Filipino expatriates in the UAE are signing online petitions against Philippine Customs officials’ decision to randomly inspect their care packages and impose taxes on them.

The Bureau of Customs (BoC) last week said as of October 1 the agency will be implementing tighter rules on parcels, commonly referred to as Balikbayan boxes by Filipinos.

The effots are aimed at uncovering individuals sending contraband or other high-value and taxable goods as, by law, Philippine Customs each box should not contain goods worth more than $500 (Dh1,835), reports Gulf News.

Goods such as chocolates, toys, clothes and household items are typically packed in a balikbayan box to be sent to family and frends in The Philippines.

Filipinos working abroad have signed online petitions against the customs’ decision, with one receiving more than 68,000 signatures in two days.

Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina was quoted by news site Rappler as saying spot checks in several warehouses reveal used clothing, home appliances and items that could be re-sold being included in the care packages. 

Global OFW Voices and Peba Inc, an online group of more than 24,000 Filipinos around the world, has suggested scanning equipment should be used instead of opening the packages, with any suspicious packages being examined in front of witnesses. 

Susan Ople, who heads the Blas F. Ople Policy Centre, a migrant advocacy group in Manila, said: “Those boxes were already paid for, weighed and declared. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are not smugglers.

"The real smugglers are so happy that BoC’s attention has been diverted to random checks on OFW care packages.

“A balikbayan box is more than just an assortment of goods. It contains an OFW’s pure affection for its recipients. Each item selected with care, is meant to include the family in an OFW’s distant journey.”


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