Balancing the duty of the Bureau of Customs and the sacredness of the Balikbayan Box

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Recently, I heard news about the Bureau of Customs (BOC) intending to open Balikbayan Boxes for inspection. The Manila Times reported in an August 17, 2015 article:

“The items [inside the boxes] may as well be considered as smuggled goods for non-compliance with the Philippine Tariff and Customs Code,” Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina said on Monday.

A spot check that he had conducted confirmed reports that unscrupulous traders were importing high-value goods in commercial quantities through the balikbayan boxes.

balikbayan_box_customs

As a former (and hopefully incoming) OFW myself, I am also concerned about the news. It was a monthly habit of mine when I was still working abroad to send goods to my family here packed in boxes besides the money that I remit along with it — to share some simple things that I enjoy in the country where I am. What concerns me are a few reports of missing boxes, or boxes that were damaged and robbed. The BOC is the only agency authorized to check the inside of a balikbayan box, so aside from the courier and the airport or port personnel, they are the next likely suspects. Should they receive the box already tampered or damaged, they will have alerted the owner, right? And the recent announcement of the BOC chairman raises the risk of more incidences of tampered balikbayan boxes.

However, while the boxes should be treated with utmost respect, since their contents are bought using hard-earned money of the OFWs, I also acknowledge the fact there are Filipinos who are, to use Commissioner Lina’s word, unscrupulous, who exploit balikbayan boxes to ship smuggled goods and that the country does need to be strict and levy taxes on all incoming goods. But in balancing the issue not only should we consider the urgent need of Customs to strictly implement its rules, we also need to picture to ourselves that these boxes are products of OFWs’ sweat, tears and sometimes blood. These contested packages are as sacred as the revenue the bureau wants to derive from them. I should know because I saw it myself.

In my analysis of the issue, let me start by giving a brief background about the function and basis of the BOC on this.

The Function of the Bureau of Customs

The last law that I know regarding the BOC is RA 1937. In its Title I, Part I, it states the function of the BOC, to wit:

Sec. 602 – Functions of the Bureau. – The general duties, powers and jurisdiction of the bureau shall include:

a. The assessment and collection of the lawful revenues from imported articles and all other dues, fees, charges, fines and penalties accruing under the tariff and customs law.

b. The prevention and suppression of smuggling and other frauds upon the customs.

xxx

l. The supervision and control over the handling of foreign mails arriving in the Philippines, for the purpose of the collection of the lawful duty on dutiable articles thus imported and the prevention of smuggling through the medium of such mails.

I’m sure there would be some readers who would tell me that I should have not shown the BOC function here because it is given. I did that for the sake of fairness and to show that indeed it is within the duty of the BOC to impose taxes on all imported goods and prevent smuggling.

The Basis of Opening Balikbayan Boxes

In a report by Rappler.com on August 19, 2015, it said:

“The existing rules are obsolete, and we may have to reassess our coordination and processes with consolidators for stricter and improved compliance,” Customs Commissioner Bert Lina, referring to a Customs Memorandum Order for consolidated shipments from Filipinos abroad dating in the 1990s.

What is that Customs Memorandum Order (CMO)?

The Rappler.com report said that the memorandum order was in the 1990s. I tried going to BOC website but it seems down as of this writing. I resorted to their site’s cached copy and I saw that the earliest CMO posted there was in 2000. Searching more, I was instead led to the FAQs regarding balikbayan boxes.

Question number 7 of it says:

7. ARE THE BALIKBAYAN BOXES OPENED BY THE PHILIPPINE CUSTOMS?

Yes, a 100% examination of the consolidated shipment is required by law.

1. To protect the legitimate interests of consignors/senders and their consignees, in particular, and the transacting public, in general.
2. To protect the interest of the government;
3. To prevent and suppress smuggling and other fraud upon customs.

For the sake of argument, I will submit that there indeed exists a memorandum order or other laws requiring the spot checking of balikbayan boxes so I can now move on to discuss another argument. At least, at this stage I hope I have established fairly that BOC has indeed the duty to inspect, spot check the balikbayan boxes.

Reason for Objection

There have been a few reports of some BOC employees themselves being involved in looting and theft of the contents of the packages that they receive. And there is no telling when and what type of packages the bureau will be opening. Balikbayan boxes are at the mercy of their discretion. In an article entitled “Why Bureau of Customs Should NOT Open Balikbayan Boxes for Inspection”, its author Pinoy OFW explains:

Overseas Filipinos have low regard on reputation of Customs staff

Imagine a less trustworthy person allowed to rummage through the balikbayan box carefully and neatly packed. It can only bring weariness and suspicion that before the box reaches its destination, it could have been pilfered or damaged in transit due to the inspection done hastily. And who can we blame for this lack of trust towards the government agency? According to Social Weather Stations, Bureau of Customs is the most corrupt government agency with a net rating of -63 or very bad…

Victims of these are told to report to the authorities but the question is how fast and efficient really the actions were? And even where there is quick action, will the stolen items be returned in its original state or exactly as what was stolen? At best, the thieves can only return an amount of money equivalent to (or sometimes less than) the value of the stolen or damaged item, which not really helpful.

To help understand how “sacred” these balikbayan boxes are to the OFWs and their families, let me quote an excerpt from former Ambassador, now Congressman Roy Seneres’s open letter to BOC Chairman Alberto Lina:

Since the 1980s, these balikbayan boxes have been a sacred part of the life of an OFW family. It has been such a treasured privilege for our modern day heroes to be able to send their ‘pasalubong’, which is the very symbol of their love and affection wrapped in a box and shipped to their loved ones, without thinking of any burdensome charges by the government.

[…] They toil and work so hard away from their family and have only the balikbayan box as means a means of sending back home the fruits of their labor (Emphasis supplied by author)

(Source: localpulse.net – VIRAL: Cong. Roy Seneres open letter to BOC chair Alberto Lina)

With much emotion invested to fill the box, you cannot blame the OFWs for reacting badly to Chairman Lina’s statement.

OFFERED SOLUTIONS

Speaking from experience, I am offering the following solutions to the problem:

1. Couriers should play the role as representatives of the BOC in the countries that they are servicing. OFWs who intend to send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines should wrap their packages in front of these couriers so that they can both witness what are the contents of the box. The couriers therefore will list down the contents that they saw and both they and the OFW will sign the list. The signed list will be sent together with the box so the receiving customs official here will have less trouble determining the contents of the box and can help him assess how much tax will be imposed (or not be imposed) to the package.

What I have experienced so far is, these couriers will simply ask me what is my declared value of my cargo and they will simply weigh the package and charge me based on both. My balikbayan box is all wrapped up during the entire process. With my proposal, the courier may agree or not whether declared value is fair or not and adjust their charges accordingly.

2. Or, if the couriers cannot be trusted, then the BOC should start employing staff abroad that will go with the couriers in doing (1). In the PinoyOFW article cited above, the author mentioned that in the planned move of the BOC, it could mean employing additional staff just to do random spot checking of suspicious packages. I say let the number of additional personnel to be stationed abroad be proportional to the volume of balikbayan box per country. The point of the exercise is that there at least be a third party to minimize if not prevent wholly, collusion between the courier and the OFW consignee. And through the BOC staff abroad, they can advise on the spot the consignee how much tax would the Philippine government charge based on what he saw.

If there will still be collusion in (2) with all three or more persons involved, then truly Filipinos need a super major attitude overhaul!

The receiving BOC officer in the Philippines can look through the list attached to the balikbayan box and he can confirm it through x-rays (and other means without disturbing boxes) if the list is honest or not. It’s the BOC and given their experience, they are (or should be) good at this. If the list and x-ray does not match, then there is a possibility that the package is indeed suspicious and requires opening. With this, the need to open balikbayan boxes can be limited to exception cases and not performed as frequently as Commissioner Lina had expressed (because I believe that is how most OFWs understand it the way I myself did).

With regard to the value of the shipment, since the BOC staff abroad had a preliminary assessment, the OFW consignee can have bases for an argument if he does not agree in case the shipment is charged in the Philippines differently.

But when the BOC indeed needs to open balikbayan boxes in extreme cases, as Senator Ralph Recto suggested, it should be done where CCTVs are installed. True, some “evil” BOC staff could simply tamper with the CCTV recording but so far I see no other means of getting another eye in cases where some boxes need to be opened.

If you don’t agree with me then at least let me say this – There’s more than one way to skin a cat. And I’m sure that there are more solutions out there other than what I presented.

I am one with former Ambassador Seneres in pleading with the BOC to reconsider their planned move. I understand that there may be a law that requires you (the BOC) to open some balikbayan boxes but please delay the implementation until you have given the OFWs assurance that there will be no more incidences of looting and theft. Again, and I want to emphasize that, the contents of these boxes should not be taken lightly.

Malacanang and BOC both said they are targeting only suspected smugglers, but I ask them to please explain in detail how they are going to assure us that the OFWs are not going to be hit in the crossfire. If not, OFWs may not send balikbayan boxes anymore for fear of being robbed. And that could mean lesser revenue for the government.

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24 Comments on “Balancing the duty of the Bureau of Customs and the sacredness of the Balikbayan Box”

  1. “Magfiesta na naman,sa mga Balikbayan boxes; ang mga magnanakaw sa Customs…”

    Even X-Rays will not show the true contents of the “BalikBayan Box”…
    Just remit Gift Money , Door-to-Door, to your relatives. It is safer, and it is faster. They can buy what they want for themselves.
    I do this , every Christmas to my relatives. I am a busy man; earning my living. I have no time buying goods; packing goods; and filling , and shipping “Balikbayan Boxes”…

    1. The money more often than not gets spent on Tandhuay, Ginebra and cockfight gambling instead of buying groceries and other necessities. I have seen able bodied men drinking rum @ 6:00 AM while playing basketball. I could tell when the OFW had sent home money because the drinking started @ 5:00 AM and was brandy instead of rum.

  2. ayayayayayayay all this just show how Filipinos are mistrusting each other and why? I am also guilty of this mis trust to others while I was in the Philippines..but here in America I was not like that whyyyyyyyy???? My dear fellow Filipinos…. it is because of experience…do I have to elaborate …hmmm I know everybody knows what I mean…Now Balikbayan boxes …customs,,, mail and delivered pakages…..whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy….united postal services…UPS and all private carriers as well as the US postal service DO NOT HAVE PROBLEMS LIKE IN THE PHILIPPINES?????

    because people do not trust each other and for good reason..system abuse is rampant, people will take anything if they think they can get away with it…the priviledge that everybody enjoy,,,more people will abuse it even if their actions destroys others priviledge as well as his own…for a quick gain..Like in America the carriers are penalized or fined if the package they deliver has illegal stuff on it,,,both the sender and the carrier are penalized and fined…does that happened in the Philippines…whyyyy not ????every body know why not??? because of lagayan….geeeseeeeee corruption is rampant…there you go folks I rest my case….some oneeeeee in customs was not included sa lagayan that’s why this a big issue nowww…why only now lumalabas ito…and folkssss OFW are also guilty ..using the balikbayan box priviledge a buseeeneesss of selling imported goods , making money out of it….it is the open ..everybody knows its happening…its illegalllll….so who is to blameeee..everybodyyyyy…..why the outrage right now …because this abuse of the system is becoming out of hand…is the government right to stop this….hmmmm maybe or maybe just some one was not paid off the lagay that’s why it is the issue…you figure it out…..only in the Philippines…

  3. This is nothing but a shakedown by the BOC on courier companies.

    Already you see how this can be abused. In a news item on this issue, the boys from customs opened a box containing a SINGLE refrigerator, they claimed further dues needed to be paid on this item. The reason to prevent smuggling. In the same breath, these boys from customs said that personal use of items (not for smuggling) was allowed. You have got to tell me how these boys can conclude that one ref means the person was smuggling?

    Really killing the goose that lays the golden eggs on this one…What a-holes, they probably rationalized that OFWs will continue to send over goods and that they can gouge them.

    Everytime the philippine government wants to implement a policy that ostensibly has a legitimate purpose, i immediately look for how these cretins will abuse it or make money off the scheme. Hard to trust the government when time and again it has shown itself to be unworthy of trust.

  4. Good article Vincent. I’m with you on declaration of the contents of the box and if the list does not correspond with the declaration then BOC has the responsibility to check it out. The BOC plan of opening the balikbayan boxes should be discuss with the concern ofws first and come up with a compromise agreement. I, for one would be very uncomfortable sending anything if its going to be opened and inspected by anyone other than the addressee.

    1. Thank you, Hugh.

      I also would like to say that these balikbayan boxes are private properties enough reason that it should be be treated with respect. I want to say this because I saw one recent video of some BOC staffs checking several boxes. They search the boxes as if they are looking for something incriminating. The OFW consignee arranged the contents of the boxes neatly and orderly, I wonder if BOC staffs can put it back the same way they received it.

      1. Thank you for presenting a balance viewpoint and offering some possible solutions. Understanding both sides of the opposing position is the way to go in any conflict/s. OFWs should refrain from swearing on social media, instead demand for a reasonable dialog otherwise forget the balikbayab box.

  5. For everyone who didnt know anything about this box – like me – here is what Wikipedia says about the box.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balikbayan_box
    A balikbayan box (literally “repatriate box”) is a corrugated box containing items sent by overseas Filipinos (known as “balikbayans”). Though often shipped by freight forwarders specializing in balikbayan boxes by sea, such boxes can be brought by Filipinos returning to the Philippines by air.

    Description
    Balikbayan boxes may contain items the sender thinks the recipient would like, regardless of whether those items can be bought cheaply in the Philippines, such as non-perishable food, toiletries, household items, electronics, toys, designer clothing, or items difficult to find in the Philippines.

    A balikbayan box intended for air travel is designed to conform to airline luggage restrictions and many Filipino stores sell them. Some boxes come with a cloth cover and side handles. Others are tightly secured with tape or rope, and thus not confused with an ordinary moving box that is lightly wrapped.

    The balikbayan boxes come in three standard sizes:
    – Medium: 18 x 16 x 18 inches
    – Large: 18 x 18 x 24 inches
    – Extra large: 24 x 18 x 24 inches
    Shipped boxes are delivered directly to the recipient, usually the family of the overseas Filipino.

    Cultural significance
    Part of the attraction of the balikbayan box is its economic value, as it allows cheaper bulk shipment of items via sending each individually or in smaller boxes through postal services. The tradeoff though is longer transit time by container ship, which typically requires several weeks, along with the lack of a firm delivery date.

    The balikbayan box is a modern manifestation of the general Philippine practice of pasalubong, where travellers within or outside the country are culturally expected to bring home gifts to family, friends and colleagues.

    History
    The balikbayan box arose in the 1980s when Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines as amended by Executive Order No. 206 provides duty and tax free privileges to overseas foreign workers (OFW) enacted by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos due to resurgence of Filipinos working overseas. The Philippine Bureau of Customs Circular allowed tax-free entry of personal goods in the country from Filipinos overseas. People then began sending items through friends and co-workers who were returning to the Philippines.

    The Philippine Bureau of Customs clearly defines those who are eligible to this tax-free privilege in their website located here http://customs.gov.ph/faqs/balikbayan-boxes/

    The balikbayan box business started in 1981 in New York by Monet Ungco, who founded Port Jersey Shipping. Two months later, Rico Nunga started REN International, based in Los Angeles, CA. There is still a debate on who started first, but these two people have been recognized as one of the first who started the balikbayan box business.

    A drastic change was made by Manila Forwarders in 1998 when it introduced the jumbo box, a bigger and a more durable box. Now, balikbayan boxes are not just the ordinary box that you see in the airport but has evolved into some that is as big as a refrigerator.

    After the 9-11 event and the passing of Patriot Act, balikbayan boxes have been subjected to rigorous inspections by US Homeland Security Out-Bound Exam Team that caused massive delays that goes up to three weeks at US Customs inspection facility alone, plus the sailing time that was also extended from 21 days to 30 plus days. The inspections also resulted in opened packaging and complaints of mishandling. The Philippine Bureau of Customs also conducts 100% inspections that added to the burden of delayed shipments.

    In 2012, this delays was further aggravated by the decision of the City of Manila to impose truck ban along the pier route causing backlogs in releasing and transporting not only balikbayan boxes but all cargoes, domestic and international. Most of the balikbayan box companies, which are based in Paranaque City close to the airport, are heavily affected by this as the truck ban starts from Port area to Roxas Blvd. This port congestion is gradually being resolved.

    The inspections is the result of some unscrupulous individuals who use balikbayan box shipment in their illegal shipments. Since balikbayan box shipping is a consolidated shipment, even one illegal item will affect all 400 or so packages inside the container. The inspection process has been modernized with the installation of high performance x-ray machines.

    Another big factor in the decline or the deteriorating industry are the consumer themselves who keep asking for a discount and patronizing low priced companies making it hard for other well-minded companies to operate a balikbayan box company in the standard where it should have been.

    The industry is also affected by cut throat competition among balikbayan box companies that most problems in the balikbayan box industry is the lack of fund and/or non-payment of the foreign principal to their Philippine counterpart to release and deliver the boxes.

    To protect the consumers, the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry, through its Philippine Shipper’s Bureau conducts regular accreditations of international freight forwarder and discourages consumer in patronizing unaccredited and incredibly cheap shipping companies.

    See also
    – Overseas Filipino
    – Padala
    – Pasalubong

    References
    1. ^ del Barco, Mandalit (2005-12-23). “Gift Boxes Help Migrant Filipinos Keep Ties to Home” (radio). Morning Edition (National Public Radio).
    2. ^ Ly, Phuong (2004-12-24). “Money Is Not Enough at Christmas”. Washington Post. p. B05.
    3. ^ “Balikbayan Box Dimensions”. Dimensions Info: Because Size Matters. Memebridge.com. Retrieved 21 March 2013. There are three types of balikbayan box, namely the medium box, the large or the regular box and the extra large box. The width and height of the medium box is 18 inches while the depth is 16 inches. The standard width of the large box has a width and depth of 18 inches while the height is 24 inches. The extra large box has a width of width and height of 24 inches while its depth is 18 inches.

    This page was last modified on 21 August 2015, at 04:04

    1. IMHO, the Balikbayan Box is the Holy Grail of Philippine economy and not the OFWs nor the call centers/BPO. And its now part of a cultural tradition to our country since this is a 3rd World/Developing nation and not an industrialized one and thanks to the economic restrictions on 60/40% quota, some of us will surely go & work abroad but when they do, they’ll gonna miss their love ones here, and thus came the balikbayan box. Only in the Philippines alright but ironically those “pasalubongs” inside the balikbayan boxes are mostly “imported” basic/necessity goods like soaps, canned foods, shampoos, clothes, etc., etc. but why those OFWs want to put these kinds of “pasalubongs” to their balikbayan boxes and we have unlimited basic/necessity goods that we have in here? The answer is again, the reflections of our cultures: Colonial mentality & being a “mababaw na kaligayahan” or in English: easy shallow and this is the reason why our country is still on backward development and not on a fast forward one unlike in some of our neighboring countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, etc.

      1. Mrericx,
        I dont know much about OFWs but most OFWs I know are able to fly back to PH (maybe twice per year). So why dont they check in those boxes as regular luggage? Problem solved. They may have to pay extra (to the airliner) bec of the extra weight. But hey, its either or. I would choose the best of 2 evils.

      2. hey guess what, I’d found this website & read it and my guess was right. And unfortunately this is the REAL reason why BOC wants to inspect all of balikbayan boxes not only due to a “smuggling” issue but also they want to get rid of “balikbayan box mentality” in our culture:

        http://www.filipiknow.net/negative-traits-of-filipinos/

        P.S.:

        Of course, there is also corruption as it was listed on 12 Annoying Attitudes of Filipinos We Need To Get Rid Of. :\

        1. “…but also they want to get rid of “balikbayan box mentality” in our culture” – Did they write the article in the link?

          “…either become exploitative or jealous of the success of the OFW” – This is undeniable. However, not all thinks this way. Some recipients of this balikbayan boxes looks at these not really as material blessings but as a piece of their loved ones abroad. In fact, some consumable items are left unopened until the OFW himself gets home not because the OFW wants it to be so but the recipient just wants to cherish it. Will this reason be a sufficient ground to discourage or ban balikbayan boxes? I don’t know. But I hope the government should have been straight to the people if they want to discourage OFWs from sending balikbayan boxes instead of announcing that they intend to be more strict in implementing rules through one less trusted agency.

          “Some also believe that the practice undoubtedly contributes to the Filipinos’ colonial mentality.” – It would really help if the article explained this further. Personally (granting conspiracy theories), I think this is the Philippine government’s way of promoting Filipino products – by suppressing or minimizing the entry of foreign goods which is not fair. Instead of raising the standards of Philippine products and make it competitive, consumers will be forced to patronize local products not because they want it but because they have no other choice. But then again, the reason can be anything.

          As GRP’s benign0 put it, the Filipino society is dysfunctional at its core. Is the balikbayan box issue a representation of that? Considering the mutual mistrust between the BoC and some OFWs, Yes. So will I vote for a total ban on balikbayan boxes because of these? My answer is still No. In my comment to benign0’s killed jeepney driver article, I said there that jailing criminals is not really a long-term solution. In the case of BoC, banning balikbayan boxes deprives its bad staffs from changing and OFWs might miss the chance of trusting the BoC. I believe that a thief cannot change by depriving it of something to steal. Given the chance, it will steal again. But by making the person realize from within the wisdom that stealing is bad, even if tons of gold are in front of him, he wouldn’t even think about it even if no one is watching.

          If the problem is the shipment of illegal items, then the BoC should raise their means of looking for these and not invite sending less of cargoes. You don’t ask your opponents to reduce their competitiveness so you’ll have better chances of defeating them, right?

  6. Now this is what I’m talking about! The article is informative, objective, fair and no projection of pretentious attitude! A breath of fresh air from usual “yabang muna before content” articles of some GRP writers which, I’m sorry to say, has become a habit of some sort!

  7. Vincent,
    I really dont know what you are talking about. Everything that I send is private property even a love letter. But if that love letter contains items to make a bomb then Customs should/must open that letter. Now whether we are talking about a love letter or some stupid box, customs must do its job. To let it pass – unchecked – then its again in line of doing a mediocre job.

    1. Nice to read from you again, Robert.

      Let’s just call Balikbayan box for our discussion simply as the Box and let me discuss from my experience.

      When I was working in Qatar, I usually request a supermarket for a Box. I fill that Box with various stuffs like canned goods, clothes, things that I enjoy in Qatar that are not available in the Philippines and send it to my family so they can enjoy what I am enjoying in Doha. I do this on a monthly basis.

      And I am not alone, in fact I just learned to do that from a colleague.

      The bad part is that smugglers also do that.

      The Bureau of Customs is a Philippine agency tasked in (1) levying taxes on these Boxes and (2) ensuring that no smuggled items are sent to the Philippines.

      The bureau, to tighten their effort to suppress smuggled goods, announced recently that they will be randomly checking Boxes more. There are no clear guidelines what boxes to open. Purely depends on their discretion. However, the Bureau have already been doing this even before to Boxes that they think are suspicious but not so often and strict as they announced now. However, the Bureau of Customs has a reputation of some of their employees looting from among the boxes that they are opening and if nothing is missing, some of the contents of some of these Boxes are damaged because of their checking. Some videos about that will tell you how rugged they are at inspecting. And since according to their chief that they will open more, there will be more risk of looting or damaged items.

      From your example, like your love letter, these Balikbayan boxes are also private properties. The BOC, with all their experience, they can tell by merely looking at the Box if it contains ordinary items or a “bomb” thus rendering their plan for more strict inspections, though “random”, quite unnecessary.

      I acknowledged the fact that it is within their function to ensure that these Boxes does not contain dangerous items and any effort to implement the law to the fullest to catch smugglers is actually welcomed. The problem is in their desire to shoot smugglers they might also hit innocent OFWs. So my point is before they intensify their effort, they’d better clean their house first. Otherwise, find another way of skinning the cat.

      Hope that helped clear it to you.

      1. Vincent,
        thanks for clearing that up.

        All I want to say is that I dont want my country’s BOC will do a shitty job or doing a naive job thinking “oh these boxes were sent by OFWs so they wont sent bomb items or drugs”. For me no box is sacred bec it can simply contain dangerous stuff.
        Maybe if you follow the latest trends on how people smuggles drugs then you might be surprised (even in female orifices and stomaches) so why not in boxes?
        When and once BOC acts lenient they will soon get a name and more contraband will be smuggled through and in the Philippines. I hope you are not in favour that BOC will do a shitty job already in a shitty country? Let at least one organization do their job thoroughly. (better safe than sorry)

  8. The problem is that the BOC reason for inspecting the boxes is not that it contains suspicious materials or a threat, rather that it may contain items that are subject for taxes.

    Opening the boxes to ensure National Security is on the bottom of the list of the BOC. They are inspecting them for valued items and subjecting these items for taxation. And by taxes, I mean outrageous taxes, “TAXES” and the catch is if the consignee is unable to pay the taxes, the items will be declared BOC propertyand subject for dispossal or selling. A win-win situation for the most corrupt department of the Philippine Government. How do they compute the taxes? 15% of the value of the item, it’s original value, or its value when it was release. Even if you got it on sale, or as a promo or even if that item is already years on the market. BOC does not know depriciating values of items.

    So where do these collected taxes go? It will become campaign funds for the upcoming national election. Remember, One commisioner of the BOC recently resigned from his position because he cannot take to collect campaign funds in his office, so here comes Lina who is willing to get his hands dirty.

  9. Many fear competition from others. But the biggest critic should be the person in the mirror.

    Don’t steal, don’t lie and don’t cheat. The government hates competition!

      1. Yes opening balik bayan boxes as a debate topic… should the BOC still conduct this inspection by opening the boxes?

        1. I hope this helps. Since you are on the pro-side…

          The BOC is duty-bound by law to ensure that all cargoes entering the country does not contain dangerous items and, if necessary, taxed. Technology now allows the bureau to inspect what’s inside these cargoes, including balikbayan boxes, without opening or disturbing them. However, there may be cases when the boxes, in the bureau’s judgment, do contain suspicious items that necessitates opening them. So the argument for the pro, if I may suggest is, it is within the function, as provided by law, of the BOC to open
          balikbayan boxes.

          The probable counter to that is, as also mentioned by the article, the BOC leadership cannot ensure that their staffs will be honest in their inspection and will not loot the boxes they are inspecting. The lack of trust by most consignees the reason for the dissent. But, if I were to counter this too, I’d propose that these cargoes, balikbayan boxes, if needed to be opened, should be inspected in an area where there will be representatives from various concerned groups (i.e., OFWs, PNP, etc.) or at least monitored by CCTVs (as proposed also by Sen. Ralph Recto).

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