• ‘Balikbayan’ boxes used in smuggling


    THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) has tightened its watch on arriving balikbayan (returnees) boxes after discovering that such cargos are being used as conduits for smuggling.

    “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.

    “The existing rules [covering such boxes]are obsolete and we may have to reassess our coordination and processes with consolidators for stricter and improved compliance,” Lina said, referring to a Customs memorandum order for consolidated shipments from Filipinos abroad.

    Balikbayan boxes, which first appeared in the 1980s, are duty- and tax-free packages of personal effects sent by Filipinos residing or working abroad to families in the Philippines.

    Though often shipped by freight forwarders specializing in balikbayan boxes by sea, such boxes can also be brought by Filipinos returning to the Philippines by air.

    “Our spot checks in several warehouses show how misconstrued the rules may have become. People are sending in used clothing, home appliances, and items of the same kind that well may be used for commercial purposes. Nagkamali ba ang sender o nagkulang ang freight forwarder [Did the sender make a mistake or did the freight forwarder miss something]? Is there misinformation to drive their businesses?” Lina asked.

    The balikbayan-box concept was approved by then-President Ferdinand Marcos, who had noted a surge in the number of Filipinos working overseas.

    The privilege though carried restrictions.

    “The contents of a balikbayan box must not exceed $500 in value. Canned goods, grocery items and other household effects must not exceed a dozen a kind, while apparels whether used or new must not exceed 3 yards per cut. Only one [1] consignment per sender during a one-month period is allowed,” Lina explained.

    Banned and/or regulated are firearms and ammunition, prohibited drugs, pornographic materials and gambling materials/ apparatus.

    “Home appliances are not allowed unless these are consigned to returning Filipino residents and overseas contract workers. Don’t let any forwarder tell you otherwise. We will seize these prohibited shipments and revoke registrations of forwarders or consolidators if we find any violations,” Lina said.

    To protect legitimate interests of the public, the commissioner said the examination of these consolidated shipments is mandatory.

    “Some people are alarmed why their boxes are delivered ‘already tampered with.’ The Customs bureau is allowed by law to do a 100-percent check of your boxes but if you think that there are items missing, you can report these to the proper authorities,” he added.


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    1. “To PROTECT legitimate INTERESTS of the PUBLIC, the commissioner said the examination of these consolidated shipments is mandatory.” …… What kind of protection are they referring to? protecting interests of whom? what type of public? Are they trying to revolutionize the meaning of the word “protect” this time? Does the word “protect” now mean taking literally the context of John 4:38
      (“I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”). Ayun naman pala me biblical basis ang Phil Tariff and Customs Code prior to this. On the other hand, in Philippine history (which unfortunately remains to be undocumented), sino ba ang kadalasang proponent ng large scale smuggling activities sa ‘Pinas.. eto bang mga OFW workers… o yung mga taga-dyan sa “Customs Bureau”?

      “The Customs bureau is allowed by law to do a 100-percent check of your boxes but if you think that there are items missing, you can report these to the proper authorities,” at pagkatapos..anu mangyayari sa mga complaints??? . My God sa country of origin pa lang taxes are already imposed dun sa shipper/sender, measures are also being taken tantamount to your 100-percent check of the boxes whatsoever. If SECURITY is what our government is after, UPGRADE the system with modern apparatuses hindi yung taong bayan ang binabraso nyo na lang palagi ng mga ‘OverNight’ ordinances.. God bless the Philippines.

    2. My mom just send 5 boxes last july 2015 before this news came up, if boc says 1 box per consignee : so what happens to the other 4 boxes? It will be returned to the sender or stock in someone else mouth?

    3. Are there any fact-checkers out there? Lima misquoted the regulation for clothing when he said “…apparel whether used or new must not exceed three yards per cut”. This on its face is nonsensical, as there is no such thing as a “yards per cut” measurement for apparel. Having never heard this terminology before, did no one think to question this on the release? Evidently not, as it is repeated verbatim by supposedly reputable sources all over the Internet.

      The actual wording of the category definition in the regulation is: “wearing apparel whether used or new and CLOTHING MATERIAL (emphasis added) not to exceed three yards per cut,” The quantity limit in this apparel category is the same as for other items, 12 of a kind. Thus the 3 yards per cut limit applies not to items of clothing, but rather to clothing material, i.e. fabric, limiting it to 12 pieces of three yards each. Read the rules here: http://www.poea.gov.ph/MCs/MC-1990/MC-37.pdfy

    4. This is so ridiculous BOC.
      Common, open your eyes, run after those smuggled fake rice, fake vegetables from CHINA. I can’t help my tongue but to say shame on you!! Because of those smuggled vegetables our local farmers in Benguet and Mountatin Province are affected.
      Tons of trash from Canada. Open you eyes BOC, how come tons of trash not been checked, may be they have given you also tons of dollars in your mouth?
      Now, you are checking every cargo box of OFW and to impose tax? for what? all things in Philippine are taxable already. Are you not contended to your salary shame on you!! Those boxes from OFW are only small things compares to those smuggled cars, rice and vegetables.
      No to open Boxes!!!!

    5. ashame of this news im a OFW working for my family and im so dissapointed when we learned this news, this is the worst news id ever encountered you BOC are are have no right to open our box. the thing that you need to improve is your f$%^&ing old system, few years ago i was working with the family in Philippines as maid, AND HER SON is NBI CUSTOM and yes worst part about there work is all the things they confiscate is they bring to there houses, before they go home in there office they already take there “PARTE PARTE” of the things they confiscate not only one i’d saw a lot. its king of boxes by boxes already behind some are got name by other people because my room is behind so all the boxes i saw behind. sometimes they confiscate frozen food he also bring in the house sometimes big KING CRABS and PRAWNS from the smuggle frozen foods. but my point is this is really happening i can’t believe now its getting worst because they need to open the box before send to the family. and im sure the things inside the box some are already missing. PEOPLE OPEN YOUR EYE’S DON’T BE SO NAIVE FOR THIS STUPID POLICY OF OUR GOVERNMENT. they must buy a good quality of box scanner. here in Malaysia is strictly they don’t open the box. because all thing’s are going thru by inspection without opening the box………PHILIPPINES MUST IMPROVE THE XRAY SCANNER FOR THE BOX. NO TO OPENING BALIK-BAYAN BOX….!!!!!!!

    6. To the BOC:
      Isa pong kuwento ng pangkaraniwang OFW na nagtatrabaho sa isang bansa.
      Nagtapos ng kolehyo ( nagkautang ang magulang para pag aralim) pero walang makuhang trabaho, nangutang para makag apply bilang DH sa mid east, iniwan ang pamilya at nag titiis mag isa, pinag sisilbihan ang mga taong di nya kanu ano, nagtitiis sa isang maliit na kwarto ta tirang pag kain ng mga amo, sa kakapuranggot na sahod pinapadala sa pamilya para makaraos. Sa halip na pambili ng masarap na pagkain, pinambili ng sapatos, damit at laruan ng mga anak. Inipon ang isang kahon sa loob ng anim na buwan, pinadala sa pinas pagkatapos bayaran shipping company. Pag dating sa pinas, binuksan ng BOC, higit daw $500 ang laman, kelangang bayad ng buwis.
      We call the OFWs mga bagong bayani, they send money to the philippines for their families which is the main source of income for the country, the philippines dont have any product to sell aside from sending people to work outside the philippines. And yet they are milking small poor OFWs, the BOC should go after big time smuglers, politicians that bring luxury cars, not the ones that you call bagong bayani. Im so disgusted about BOC opening of balikbayan boxes and taking items intended for ofw families, a small paradise in a box for their families. If boc is monitoring this activity, who is monitoring the boc? BOC is just one of the most corrupt agency in philippine govt. and now they are after the sardines and toys that ofw has sent. Philippines is a third world country and it that way. Vietnam which is a remnant of a recent war, but its far better than the phillppines. Thailand which we helped their agriculture , they are asia economic power. Why? Because yheir government work for the people. I dont know which is dumber, the corrupt politician that got elected by the people or the people that elected the corrupt politician.

    7. Ms. Lina, during the time of Marcos in 1970 the dollar exchange to peso was $5.5 until it reached to $19.03 in 1985. An ave of $12.265 during those time. Today exchange is $46.23. Also, prices today skyrocket multiple times compare in the 70’s & 80’s. To give you an idea f u pretend not to know, one descent lady bag for today is ave. $250.00, an iPod ave. of $500.00, a Levi’s jeans $50 to $100.00. If u will use ur arithmetic , how many items u can put in one Balikbayan box with a size of 1cubic meter for regular and I guess almost 2cubic meter for the jumbo Balikbayan box. The whole nation needs ur explanations on this matter. This is a red flag . Go and clean ur surrounding and put ur corrupt people to jail. We are tired of corrupt people in our system. If we are going to look up in big pictures, this is a cover up of upcoming big smuggling in our country. God bless the Philippines.

    8. It will be very easy to solve the problem of customs… If an importer is found to have done some sort of smuggling then fine him but jail the examiner who released the goods… The reason why I am absolutely sure president Arroyo was corrupt because before she left office she created the PASG. Philippine anti smuggling group. The PASG went after importers and crated fake accusations on goods that have already been released and in the warehouse. Why didn’t they go after the examiners who released them? PASG was an extortion group created by Arroyo. We paid them millions to get the off our backs. To prove that PASG is a useless govt. agency. It was immediately dismantled as soon as arroyo administration ended. Let me ask what really happened to all the PASG investigation. The people running it were thieving ex-generals and corrupt people that run amuck on importers during the last days of Arroyo. So this Balikbayan box issue they try to scare the public so they can squeeze more money from the forwarders. This is so predictable their motives. Fine the violators but ask them to show who were the examiners who released them…

    9. Commisioner Buwitre Lina pati ba naman yung maliliit na balikbayan boxes na pinaghirapan ng mga OFW gusto mo pang magka comission. Maawa ka sa mga OFW kaligayahan nila ang mgapadala. First kitang nakita sa TV yung mukha mo di na pagkakatiwalaan. Buwitr kana buwaya kapa.

    10. Mr. Lina,
      You will have an idea of the persons using the balikbayan boxes as a conduit for smuggling/commercial purposes by the number of boxes and the number of times that a particular recipient receives.
      Most OFW’s buy items on a staggered basis in order to send a Christmas gift “balikbayan box” to one’s family or relatives. It’s okay to open a box or boxes as long as nothing is missing among the non-prohibited items. The problem is the temptation of some BOC employees to get item/s bought by hard-earned/toiled OFW earnings.
      Who are the designated authorities assigned to answer complaints of missing items? Can your office send/forward them intact to the farthest island in Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao? Will your employees be that diligent to take note of who the owner is/are of missing items?
      How about your businesses at the BOC, Commissioner Lina?

    11. custom is the most corrupt branch of Pinas Gov’t that Pnoy cannot straighten up these crooks…

      these balikbayan boxes are just peanuts compared to big corrupt importers..

      not more than $500 value is the limit and dozens of items.. that’s bull.
      I just sent twelve dozen cans of ensure to my very sickly nanay in Pinas because she can’t afford to buy one so expensive over there. and how could you make money with used clothes intended only for the poor relatives living in the Philippines..

      shame on BOC and pls. Pnoy have mercy……

      we are avid fans and supporters of your admin. living in America

    12. Before i frequently sent balikbayan box worth more than $2000 of different items and more than a dozen of several items but no problem to BOC and arrived in front of my house door on time and no single item missing. Even worth $5000 of assorted grocery goods specially can goos and chocolate had no problem using the balikbayan box or ordinary box. Now BOC strictly implemented no exemption rule. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? This are the money of OFW who are working hard abroad to make living and a little luxury to their family. To all arriving OFW are allowed to buy worth $3000 in Fiesta Filipino (PX GOODS), so if i buy worth $3000 of grocery items then you will call that for commercial purposes? Concentrate your JOB in all Port Area in the Philippines, there’s too much smuggle happening there. Everytime HOLIDAY SEASON (Christmas) comes BOC personnel are concentrating to all returning OFW, IT’S MORE FUN AND MORE KICKBACK they can get to OFW and even to all TOURIST who want to spend vacation in our Country. Investigate the BAGGAGE CLAIM STORAGE in NAIA where the late arrival of baggage are stored, when you are claiming your baggage you need to Pay PADULAS to the Personnel station there. GRABE TALAGA, MGA BUWAYA…

    13. you are one crazy crook of the BOC sec. if an OFW send container van . . .that you can say custom duty bond. .but a balikbayan box is a petty snatching of a hard earned money of OFW just a sort of consoations to their famiies. .go to port Irene in Cagayan and Subic. .you’ll find where your job is fitted. WALA KA NA ABANG IBANG MAISIP NA PAGKAKAKITAAN sa BOC?

    14. Go for the big fish, demented Lina want to make an impression, if a dozen or hundred of balikbayan box is sent in one address that is probable, but my God, OFW just wanted to give a little luxury to their family and you will rip off the box, shame on you, useless bugger!!

      • Lubos na tama ka riyan, kabayan. Panay pahirap & bigat na lang sa balikat ang binibigay sa ating mga OFWs like me ng mga nasa puwesto ng kasalukuyang administrasyon. Halimbawa na lang ang Terminal Fee na halagang P550/OFW na dinagdag sa airline e-ticket, EXEMPTED kami diyan mula pa ng gawin batas iyan ni Dating Pangulong Fidel Valdez Ramos, pero pinilit pa rin nilang idagdag sa amin iyan. Refundable nga pero pipila ka pa ng napakahaba upang ma-ibalik sa iyo ang P550. Sana, patnubayan ang Pilipinas at ang mamamayang Pilipino.

    15. Here goes another way that customs people are always on the look out for something to make more money. Assuming that there are a very few that uses the system for smuggling, 99 % are legit.and is one of the most useful system for our relatives.
      This is small fry but still some people are looking for extra money. Let the system go on and take care of cases like luxury vehicles, rice, sugar, large electronics, missing 2000 container vans, etc