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Balikbayan boxes used by smugglers

As the holiday season draws near, Customs and airport authorities have tightened their watch on balikbayan boxes as criminal syndicates and unscrupulous individuals continue to use these for their smuggling operations.

Customs agents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport recently intercepted a balikbayan box shipment containing signature bags, shoes, sandals, shirts and other luxury items worth P6.5 million from France.  

Customs - NAIA district collector Carmelita Talusan said based on the import document, the shipment was misdeclared as personal effects, shampoo and assorted clothes from Maisons-Alfort, and consigned to a certain Reynaldo Tan Sr.

The seized items at the NAIA Paircargo warehouse included handbags of Prada, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Christian Dior, and Valentino, and shoes, sandals and shirts in commercial quantities. 

Talusan said the misdeclaration is an apparent attempt of the owner to evade the payment of correct duties and taxes through the use of falsified documents given the duty and tax free privileges afforded to balikbayan boxes.

The Customs bureau is heightening its alert against smuggled items intended for the so-called “ber months” or holiday season.

As the volume of shipments increase during the holiday season, the bureau also reminds the public to be cautious in sending their packages and parcels. 

Overseas Filipino workers and claimants are advised to support legitimate and accredited forwarders to avoid the possibility of being scammed by fly-by-night operators.

Under the Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act 2016 (CMTA), sending of balikbayan boxes by Qualified Filipinos While Abroad (QFWA) to their families and relatives is exempt from payment of duties and taxes up to three times and the total FOB/FCA (free carrier/free on board) value of which does not exceed P150,000 in a calendar year. Any amount that exceeds the allowable value is subject to payment of duties and taxes.

QFWA covers overseas Filipino workers with valid DFA-issued passports, certified by Department of Labor and Employment and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for overseas employment; Filipinos under job contracts not requiring certification from the foregoing; non-resident Filipinos with permanent residency abroad but has retained Filipino citizenship, and resident Filipino citizens that may include holders of student visa, investors’ visa, tourist visa, and similar visas which allow them to establish temporary stay abroad.

To avail of this privilege, the bureau reminds Filipinos that balikbayan boxes should contain only personal and household effects such as wearing apparel, personal adornment, gadgets, and toiletries to qualify for the tax exemption. 

Goods which are in commercial quantities and those intended for sale, hire, or barter are not covered by the duty- and tax-free privilege.

Topics: Ninoy Aquino International Airport , NAIA , balikbayan boxes , smuggling , Bureau of Customs
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