Senator Sonny Angara has reminded the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to strictly implement the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) that mandates less intrusive examination of balikbayan boxes brought in to the country.
“Malinaw sa ating batas na hindi na pwedeng basta na lang bubuksan at kakalkalin ang mga balikbayan box. (The law is clear that balikbayan boxes should not be indiscriminately opened and examined.) 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 its 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 BoC personnel shall be allowed to operate the baggage x-ray machines.
“We are hopeful that with this law in place, this will never happen again. Pangalagaan at respetuhin sana natin ang mga pinaghirapan at pinag-ipunan ng ating mga kababayan abroad para ipadala sa kanilang mga pamilya dito sa bansa (We should protect and respect what our countryment abroad worked hard for and saved for to send to their families here in the country),” added Angara, who sponsored the CMTA or Republic Act 10863, which also provides for higher tax exemption of balikbayan boxes.
Under the 2016 law, balikbayan boxes sent by any Filipino worker (OFW) or resident abroad not exceeding P150,000 in value are exempted from 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 to the country, which is around 400,000 every month, doubles 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.
“Simula nang maisabatas ang balikayan box law, ito na ikatlong pagkakataon na nananawagan tayo sa BoC na ipatupad na nang klaro at maayos ang batas. Sana ngayong Pasko ay mapakinabangan na nga ito,” Angara said.
(Since the enactment of the Balikbayan Box Law, this is the third time that we are appealing to the BoC to enforce the law clearly and properly. Hopefully, this Christmas it will be beneficial finally.)