THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) has thwarted attempts by unscrupulous brokers to sneak in highly taxable goods inside 402 undeclared “balikbayan” boxes to avoid payment of duties and taxes.
Customs Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement Ariel Nepomuceno disclosed on Friday that the seized goods were part of a consolidated shipment that contained a total of 535 boxes that arrived at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) from Singapore.
According to Nepomuceno, the consolidator, Philbase Express Freight Logistics Corp., declared the shipment to carry 133 packages of household goods and personal effects but failed to declare 402 other boxes.
Of the 402 undeclared boxes, 380 were found to contain pre-mixed flour and pork floss consigned to popular Singaporean brand BreadTalk; seven contained ball casters consigned to Seek and Find Instaparts Corp.; seven boxes with 200 cartons each of Quebee protective eyewear consigned to Basic Occupational; and five boxes with 144 pairs of protected eyewear consigned to Worksafe Inc.
Nepomuceno said the 40-footer container van that contained the shipment was subjected to X-ray examination in compliance with Malacanang’s directive against the random opening of “balikbayan” boxes.
“When the container was scanned, it was found out that it contained more boxes than what was declared by the consolidator,” he added.
Then, Nepomuceno said, “a 100-percent examination was then authorized in the presence of a Customs examiner, the importer’s representative, as witnessed by the case officer.”
But , according to him, he lifted the alert order on the subject container van to pave way the continuous processing of documents and release to legitimate consignees of the 133 packages containing purely household goods and effects, subject to compliance with existing rules on “balikbayan” boxes.
Under the law, contents of “balikbayan” boxes must not exceed P10,000 and only the importation of personal and household effects belonging to returning Filipinos from abroad are exempt from duties, provided that they are accompanied by returning residents.
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are only allowed to send one “balikbayan” box per month and the box should only contain groceries, canned goods and other household items not exceeding a dozen a kind.
The law allows only one consignment per sender in a month.
Apparels, whether new or used, must not exceed three yards per cut.
Earlier, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina ordered a stringent inspection of “balikbayan” boxes over intelligence reports that such boxes are being used as “conduit” by smugglers disguised as brokers and importers.
The order, however, was strongly criticized by OFW groups, the Church, lawmakers and advocacy groups, prompting the President to overrule it.
In compliance with the President’s directive, a mandatory X-ray examination of consolidated shipments was implemented in lieu of random physical inspection.