Dear Consumer Power,
I am a Filipina working as a waitress in Dubai for over five years now. Last month, I sent a balikbayan box to my family in Cotabato. The package contained two mobile phones, eight watches, stuffed toys, a pair of shoes, and a backpack where I hid inside its pocket a pair of earrings and necklace. When my family received the parcel, the number of items inside it did not add up to what was asserted in the packing list. We contacted the shipping company to report the problem and told them that we are suspecting that the balikbayan box had been pilfered.
The shipping company conducted an investigation on the matter. Their findings showed that the box had been replaced, because the original one was damaged. They maintained, however, that no items were taken. To settle the issue, they offered to cover the cost of the lost items excluding the jewelries which were not declared in the packing list.
We are willing to settle with the shipping company but we are demanding that they also cover the amount of the jewelries. However, they refused to comply with our demand. How can the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) help us on this matter?
Balikbayan boxes containing items sent by our hardworking overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) like you are worth more than what was declared in their price tags. We know for a fact that all the items enclosed in the package are fruits of your labor, that is why the DTI, through the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau (PSB), sees to it that every balikbayan box sent to and from abroad are delivered safely to the families of OFWs.
In your case, the shipping company cannot cover the expenses of the stolen jewelries, because they are not declared in the packing list. Shippers can only be responsible of the items asserted by the sender. Sending items without declaring them to the shipper is tantamount to smuggling. Balikbayan boxes should only contain items declared in the packing list provided by the shipper and verified by the cargo consolidator. Senders proven to have misrepresented their packing list in order to conceal items may result to forwarders filing a case against them.
To those who would avail of freight forwarding services, the DTI-PSB shares these tips to ensure that balikbayan boxes reach their intended destination:
1. Check the list of DTI-accredited Philippine counterparts/agents at http://www.dti.gov.ph/dti/index.php?p=409;
2. Be wary of exceptionally very low rates;
3. Declare all the contents of your shipment in the packing list;
4. Keep and secure transport documents such as cargo or official receipt and Bill of Lading;
5. Know the name and contact details of the Philippine counterparts/agents;
6. Monitor the movement of your cargo from origin to destination to make sure it is being shipped and delivered; and
7. Immediately file a complaint for any loss, non-delivery, pilferage or damaged cargo to the DTI-PSB office located at the 2nd Floor, DTI Bldg., 361 Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City or through fax at 751-3305, or email email@example.com, or call DTI-Direct 751-3330 or 0917-8343330 for assistance.
The DTI-PSB is also holding the “Roadshow for continuing advocacy to address the Problems on Balikbayan Boxes through the Utilization by the Overseas Filipinos of Government-accredited Freight Forwarding Companies” on the following schedules: October 19 to 22 Hong Kong, October 25 to 27 Singapore, November 11 to 13 Dubai and November 14 to 16 Riyadh.
All overseas Filipinos are invited to attend. For more details on the roadshow, like Dti-Psb on Facebook or you may contact them through telephone numbers 751-3304, 751-0384 local numbers 2212 to 2213 and email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * *
The Department of Trade and Industry welcomes all inquiries, complaints, comments and suggestions from consumers. Call DTI Direct at 751-3330 from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or visit the DTI website www.dti.gov.ph.