Manila, Philippines – Due to possible abuse of the tax-free balikbayan packages being used by traders to smuggle goods into the country, the Bureau of Customs said that the government agency can impose stricter measures to counteract the illegal activity.
“The existing rules are obsolete and we may have to reassess our coordination and processes with consolidators for stricter and improved compliance,” Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina said in a statement.
“Our spot checks from several warehouses show how misconstrued the rules may have become. People are sending in used clothing, home appliances and items of the same kind that can well be used for commercial purposes,” he added.
Balikbayan boxes are duty and tax-free packages designed for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) sending home gifts to their families. But Lina narrated that some contents of the balikbayan boxes are considered smuggled goods due to non-compliance with the Philippine Tariff and Customs Code.
Some packages contain undervalued and under-declared goods which cause the delay of transmitting the boxes to the recipients, or not transmitted at all.
Although balikbayan boxes are duty and tax-free packages, BOC reminded that there are limitations. According to Lina, the following are some measures to ensure that balikbayan boxes will pass through smoothly at the BOC’s several warehouse spot checks:
- Contents should not exceed US$500 in value
- Canned goods, grocery items and other household effects must not exceed a dozen a kind
- Apparel whether used or new must not exceed three yards per cut
- Home appliances are not allowed unless these are consigned to returning Filipino residents and overseas contract workers
- Packages should also not contain any banned or regulated firearms and ammunition, prohibited drugs, pornographic material and gambling material
- One consignment per sender during a one-month period is allowed
Lina reiterated that BOC is allowed to open and inspect any packages suspected of smuggled goods, and that BOC will seize the prohibited shipments and revoke registrations of forwarders or consolidators if there is any violation.
He also reminded the public that if a receiver finds any items missing from the packages, he may report the incident to the proper authorities.