THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) should change its policies to make them more “Filipino friendly” because the agency is indirectly violating laws that grant incentives to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and athletes with its onerous duties and impractical rules, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Sunday.
“If the law grants certain privileges or incentives to our OFWs and athletes, the bureaucratic procedures must lean toward making it easy for them to enjoy such privileges. Otherwise, it is no longer a privilege but a burden,” Marcos pointed out.
The senator issued the statement in wake of reports that the BOC imposed a tax of almost P6,000 on the championship belt of mixed martial arts winner Jujeath Nagaowa despite the law exempting medals, awards and similar recognition from import duties.
The BOC was also flayed for its plan to manually scrutinize Balikbayan boxes as part of its anti-smuggling campaign.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd had to step in and stopped the implementation of the plan.
“The government should learn from the experience in the balikbayan box brouhaha. It must show its sincerity in its appreciation of the invaluable contributions of our Filipino compatriots who are either working abroad or competing for the glory of our country,” Marcos said.
Senator Cynthia Villar said the BOC should change its priorities and focus on bigger issues, particularly the rampant smuggling of agricultural products into the country.
Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, slammed Customs chief Alberto Lina for his “misplaced” priorities.
She said Lina should go after big smuggling syndicates, not OFWs.
“They [BOC] claimed that the government is losing P50 million a year from balikbayan [care]boxes, which is small compared to the P200 billion a year lost from smuggling of agricultural products,” Villar noted.
She said failure of the Department of Justice to file charges against suspected smugglers is one of the reasons why smuggling continues to thrive.