Amid issues surrounding the imposition of stricter rule on balikbayan boxes, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III called for the passage of his bill that will not only secure packages against corrupt personnel, but could also ease overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)’ financial burden.
Pimentel filed the Senate Bill 1168 in September 2016, but is yet to be discussed in the Senate committee on ways and means.
“The balikbayan box is the symbol of love of OFWs for their families, its contents the fruits of their labor. I find it distasteful to consider these boxes as mere sources of revenue after all the sacrifices of our OFWs and their contributions to the economy,” Manila Bulletin quoted Pimentel as saying.
SB 1168 strengthens the call to prohibit Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnels from opening boxes. The bill mandates BOC agents to limit inspections to non-intrusive means such as x-rays unless they receive information saying that parcels contain prohibited items.
The bill also aims to allow OFWs to send one 24 x 24 x 30-inch box without taxes and charges per month.
Customs Administration Order No. 05-2016 entitles OFWs to send balikbayan boxes that are worth P150,000 and below without paying taxes per year.
BOC has rolled out Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017 that requires OFWs to declare all contents of their packages in an itemized list to avoid smuggling of prohibited contents to the country and to make sure that balikbayan privileges are not being abused.
CMO 04-2017 strengthens the Customs Administration Order No. 05-2016, which exempts OFWs from paying taxes for balikbayan boxes with less than P150,000 value per year.
This has received ire from OFWs in the UAE, saying that the policy is unnecessary and it will take away the element of surprise included in sending of boxes.