Abakada Party List Representative Jonathan de la Cruz has joined Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto in calling for the fast track approval of a new BBL. Not the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law but the Balikbayan Boxes Law.
Noting that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) now residing in foreign lands and returning residents, collectively acknowledged as our modern day heroes, continue to play an immeasurable role in supporting the economy, their families and their communities, de la Cruz said that the benefits and privileges they get are no longer reflective of the value of their contributions to the country.
Like Senator Recto who first proposed the immediate adoption of a new BBL, de la Cruz advised it is high time for the state to give them the recognition and benefits they rightfully deserve.
Among others, the exemption from taxes and duties under the Tariff and Customs Code and the National internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended, of the contents of any balikbayan box which usually contain personal and household effects of no commercial value brought in by the above named citizens under the proposed Balikbayan Box Law (BBL) will be increased from the current US$ 500 to US$2,500. Six years after the enactment of the law, the value shall be adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index to be published by the Philippine Statistics Authority. The new BBL also provides for the adjustment of the duty-free purchases of balikbayans to US$1,500 reflecting the current true value of money due to the inflation rate.
By adjusting the amounts afforded tax and duty free privileges , the distinct personal and emotional bonds which are usually attached to a balikbayan box will remain intact. That way, the party list solon intoned, the priceless, unspoken longings of family members living apart from each other will be assuaged and remain inviolate, something which the proposed unwarranted ‘strip search’ operation of the Bureau of Customs on each and every box would have ruined without fail.
Quite apart from the emotional bonds remaining in place, the proposed BBL will have two immediate advantages once it is enacted into law. First, it will enable our balikbayans to buy more goods for their families and loved ones without worrying over the searches and, of course, the taxes or duties they have to pay. Second, Customs personnel will have more time to initiate reforms within their ranks and, perhaps more importantly, finally give a huge push to the drive against the big-time smugglers of oil, agricultural products, steel bars and other high-value items.