Senator Sonny Angara on Sunday warned Customs employees against tampering with balikbayan boxes and reminded the bureau officials to enforce the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act that mandates a less intrusive examination of such boxes brought into the country.
It is clear in the law that balikbayan boxes cannot just be opened or tampered with, Angara said.
“We pushed for this law in response to the complaints of our OFWs and their families that some items in their balikbayan boxes were allegedly stolen or damaged upon inspection,” Angara said.
Under the implementing rules on balikbayan boxes, all deconsolidators must establish their own Customs facility and warehouse equipped with CCTVs and baggage X-ray machine for the examination of balikbayan boxes.
All baggage X-ray facilities shall be under the control and supervision of the BOC, and only trained personnel shall be allowed to operate the baggage X-ray machines.
“We are hopeful that with this law in place, violations never happen again,” Angara said as he exhorted the BOC to take care and respect the balikbayan boxes as they contained what our countrymen have worked hard abroad so they can send them to their relatives in the Philippines.
Angara, sponsor of the CMTA or Republic Act 10863, which also provides for higher tax exemption of balikbayan boxes, said that under the 2016 law, balikbayan boxes sent by any Filipino worker or resident abroad not exceeding P150,000 in value are exempt from payment of taxes and duties.
Before the CMTA was enacted, the tax exemption ceiling for balikbayan boxes was only P10,000.
According to the BOC, the number of balikbayan boxes shipped in the country, which is around 400,000 every month, doubles in number during the Christmas season.
The amended implementing rules on balikbayan boxes was only released by the BOC in August of this year. The BOC revised its guidelines after receiving criticisms last year regarding its tedious requirements for overseas Filipinos to avail of the tax incentive.
Under the old guidelines, Filipinos abroad must submit an itemized list with the total value of the contents of the balikbayan box, together with copies of receipts, and a photocopy of their passport.
With the revised rules, receipts will only by submitted “if available” along with a photocopy of any of these documents: passport, resident ID, overseas employment certificate or OWWA card, work permit, or any other equivalent ID.