The Christmas season is upon us, and this means gifts, packages, and other holiday items being sent home to loved ones by families and relatives working or living abroad.
Seems its cheaper to send these holiday treats in bulk or so-called balikbayan boxes, it has become a practice to send them home to loved ones either through the postal service or private parcel delivery firms.
Sometimes, certain high-end items like electronic gadgets, perfumes, and even home appliances are stuffed into such balikbayan boxes, and they become tempting for certain package inspectors to poke into, or worse, tamper with.
But such packages or boxes should be treated the same way as letters and similar documents sent via mail—with utmost privacy and care.
After all, the contents of these boxes represent the blood, sweat, and tears of our hard-working overseas workers.
To be blunt about it taking out anything from such boxes is plain theft.
And so, 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 nalang bubuksan at kakalkalin ang mga balikbayan box. 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 it 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," 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 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.