Overseas Filipinos are up in arms over the plans of the Bureau of Customs to impose higher taxes and stricter measures on balikbayan boxes or care packages sent to their families in the Philippines.

According to Customs officials, the measure is intended to curb abuses in the use of balikbayan box privileges after they discovered irregularities in the boxes’ contents.

Based on Customs rules and regulations, balikbayan boxes should contain goods not exceeding $500 and should not include commercial items and household appliances among the contents of the boxes. It further cited that the technical smuggling or misdeclaration of items in the boxes resulted in a P600 million loss in taxes supposedly collected from the goods.

While the bureau may just be doing its job in imposing a stricter crackdown on illegal goods being shipped through balikbayan boxes, some netizens have decried the manner in which the BoC has conducted its random inspection, posting images of their dilapidated balikbayan boxes as these reached their doorsteps.

As a matter of fact, a Change.org petition started by UAE based Julius Lajara seeking to stop the BoC from imposing higher taxes and tighter rules for balikbayan boxes now has close to 80,000 signatures in only a span of three days. The petition is targeting at least 150,000 voices to protest the bureau’s plans.

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OFWs in UAE pitching in to fill a balikbayan box to send to the Philippines (photo credit: Julius Lajara/Change.org)

“A lot of OFW were being affected of the customs to impose tighter rules for balikbayan boxes and will also put additional tax on it. We all know how much corruption is happening in customs right now. We cannot deny it. Add to that they are aggressively telling that they have the rights to open boxes, if something is missing after the inspection we have the rights to report it to the authorities. Who is the authorities they are saying? Even if that happen and we report it we all know that there will be no good output. (sic),” the petition stated.

Jude Galford, a former OFW said: “Nung nasa abroad ako, kaligayahan ko ang magpa package. Kasi alam ko mapapasaya ko ang pamilya ko. Almost every other month nag papadala ako ng kahit ano; depressing kasi lalo na para saken, kaya namimili ako lagi pangpagaan ng loob. Pag naiisip ko ang saya ng mga anak ko, ng asawa ko, gumagaan ang loob ko. Siguro ganun din ang ating mga kababayan na OFW ngayon. Yung mga opisyal natin dyan, karamihan sa kanila di ito alam. Dapat mawari nila na sa loob ng isang box na yan, may buhay na nakasalalay.

UP Journalism Professor Ivy Lisa Mendoza expressed her outrage through a Facebook status:“WHAT DO OFWS USUALLY SEND IN THEIR BALIKBAYAN BOXES? Sapatos kay Junior, manika kay Baby, Oil of Olay at lotion para kay Mahal, konting chocolate, konting de lata, sabon, pabango, at madami pang maliliit na bagay. And these things can be seen through the Xray machine – so why pry them open and tax them, BOC??” She also added that Customs should instead go after big time smugglers and inspect containers with tons of garbage from other countries rather than focus on the care packages of the OFWs.



Cher Jimenez Cayabyab, a Filipino journalist based in Australia said: “Why on earth can’t the BOC just run the boxes through a scanning machine instead of opening them?”

Odette Fuentes Pinto, who used to work for a logistics firm in the US, said: “They (BoC) do not have the right at all for inspection. We all have trading laws when it leaves US – it went through a thorough export inspection…. Mali talaga kahit saang anggulo tingnan! Uulitin ko anu ba ang mga pamantayan ng pamahalaan natin para magbukas ng bagahe? and is it random inspection? and as per their duty is concern – they can inspect but not take the goods and let the receiver pay for it! for what? taxes? its a personal thing and taxes has been paid here, and import goods taxes are being paid by the importer or depending on the incoterms used when shipping.”

“As an OFW, madali naman umintindi ng mga procedures na gustong i impose ng Customs kaya lang hindi naman ata makatarungan kung kada item na may value na binayaran mo na ang tax sa ibang bansa tas pagdating sa pinas ay babayaran mo nman. Ok nmn mag impose ng mga regulasyon para sa ikabubuti ng nakakarami pero ang implementation? Ano ang kasiguraduhan na mapapangalagaan ang bawat kahon na bubuksan nila? Saka bakit kahon ang pinagdidiskitahan eh napakaraming container na inuuwi at nanggagaling sa ibang bansa na pag aari ng kung sino sino na naglalaman ng kung ano ano pero nakakalusot nmn sa custom tas tax free pa? Maganda ang plano ng taga custom pero mukhang bagsak sila sa implementation. Pinapagod lang nila sarili nila at ginagalit lang nila ang taong bayan. Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Genie Capulong, from Italy said.

Angie Chui

ANGIE used to work for a leading Manila-based daily newspaper until she decided that the academe was a more refreshing environment for her. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging about her travels on www.budjetsetter.wordpress.com and writing about movies and books on www.itswynnesworld.com. Follow her exploits via social media @wynnesworld (twitter), @wynnesworld (Instagram) and Angie Chui on Facebook.