SENATE President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has filed a bill that would reduce the worries of OFWs sending gifts to their families back home by exempting one balikbayan box per month per OFW from taxes and duties, and generally prohibiting Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel from opening the boxes.
Senate Bill No. 1168, if passed into law, would remove all taxes and duties on the contents of one balikbayan box measuring 24 by 24 by 30 inches sent each month by a Filipino overseas worker to his or her family, as well as setting stringent conditions on when these boxes can be opened by agents of the BOC.
“The balikbayan box is the symbol of love of OFWs for their families, its contents the fruits of their labor. I find it distasteful to consider these boxes as mere sources of revenue after all the sacrifices of our OFWs and their contributions to the economy”, said Pimentel.
According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), overseas Filipinos’ cash remittances amounted to $26.899 billion for 2016, from a total estimate of 2.2 million OFWs from the 2016 Survey of Overseas Filipinos by the National Statistics Authority.
Pimentel’s proposed law allows only non-intrusive means of inspection, such as x-rays, to be used on balikbayan boxes, which can only be physically opened for inspection if the consignor’s export declaration and packing list are not attached to the balikbayan box, or there is information from other government agencies or a sworn statement from private sources that the box contains banned, prohibited, or regulated import commodities under Philippine laws.
The Senate President’s bill proposes to exempt balikbayan boxes from all duties and taxes under the National Internal Revenue Code and the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.
Pimentel said, “The value of the contents of the balikbayan boxes is not the concern of the Bureau of Customs. What is important is that each OFW is entitled to one balikbayan box per month for his or her family.”