THE Bureau of Customs on Monday said that it will no longer allow its personnel to open and physically inspect balikbayan boxes, and asked the public to report any customs personnel who would open the balikbayan boxes without an alert order.
The agency said the policy has been in practice since the release of Customs Memorandum Order 27-2015, which was signed last September 2015.
“This CMO states that balikbayan boxes of OFWs shall not be subjected to random or arbitrary physical inspection, and instead shall only undergo mandatory x-ray scanning,” the BOC said.
Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, however, reminded the public not to abuse the privilege provided to OFWs because balikbayan boxes containing questionable items would be confiscated.
He said proper procedures are put in place, such as in cases of shipments tagged “suspect” after x-ray scanner, the inspector shall recommend the issuance of an alert order.
“The boxes shall then be subjected to 100 percent physical examination at an authorized examination area to be conducted by a Customs Examiner in the presence of the apprehending officers, freight forwarder consolidator, representatives of the Overseas Workers Welfare Association or a designated officer of an OFW Association.
He said only last August this, the bureau has intercepted high-caliber firearms that were illegally shipped to the country from the United States through a balikbayan box.
Faeldon urged customs personnel to let balikbayan boxes released since it is the privilege of OFWs but warned possible offenders of criminal charges.
Faeldon said they are now finalizing the implementing rules and regulations of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act to fully implement new rules on tax exemptions for balikbayan boxes.
Under the CMTA, the tax exemption ceiling for balikbayan boxes was increased from P10,000 to P150,000—provided, that balikbayan boxes shall only contain personal and household effects and not in commercial quantities, and that Overseas Filipino Workers can only avail of this privilege up to three times in a calendar year.
For balikbayan box-related complaints and concerns, the public may forward them to the Bureau’s Customer Assistance and Response Services at telephone number (02)705-6000, email address [email protected]
, Twitter account @CustomsPH, and www.facebook.com/BOC.Cares.
Faeldon issued the statement in connection with the filing of Senate Bill 1168 by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, which institutes the Expanded Balikbayan Program.