• Palace no match to OFW power

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    MALACAÑANG on Tuesday denied that fear of a political whplash was the reason why government caved in to an avalanche of criticisms from migrant Filipinos and their families back home who deplored an attempt by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to subject balikbayan (care) boxes to tighter scrutiny.

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd late on Monday ordered Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina to forego the planned random inspection of balikbayan boxes and instead subject them to X-ray and K-9 (drug-sniffer) checks that drew flak from migrant Filipinos in the social media.

    Only suspicious balikbayan boxes that may contain prohibited items will be inspected under the supervision of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) or an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) association.

    “The President primarily took into consideration the welfare of each OFW and their families as time has made the balikbayan box a symbol of the fruits of their labor and desire to give their families a more comfortable life,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in Filipino.

    “We received a lot of feedback from the ranks of the OFWs and we considered each one of them,” he added.

    Coloma, however, insisted that the government is still duty-bound to prevent the smuggling of contraband into the country.

    “While we listen to the sentiments of our bosses, it is also the duty of the state to stop those who take advantage of the balikbayan privileges by using the boxes in smuggling weapons, illegal drugs and dutiable goods,” he said.

    Lina on Tuesday said the BOC “will follow the President’s directive on balikbayan boxes effective immediately.”

    “Instead of random physical inspections, we will do a mandatory X-ray examination of containers of consolidated shipments and balikbayan boxes at no cost to the sender or OFW,” he added.

    Lina, moreover, asked freight forwarders to install their own X-ray machines in their warehouses to expedite the clearance of balikbayan boxes.

    A coalition of OFW groups and advocates welcomed the President’s directives.

    “We thank President Aquino for his timely intervention. We deem it unfortunate, however, that the balikbayan box controversy had to reach the Palace doorstep for it to be resolved,” John Bertiz, the official spokesman of the coalition, said.

    “It reflects poorly on the consultative mechanisms within government agencies, such as the Bureau of Customs [BOC]. Had they reached out to the OFW global community before abruptly undertaking random checks, this conflagration could have been averted,” he added.

     Balikbayan box law
    The controversy gave Sen. Ralph Recto the chance to draw attention to his pending proposal, Senate Bill 2913 or the Balikbayan Box Law, which seeks to increase the tax exemption limit on goods shipped through care boxes. He said the draft law would give “permanent protection” to OFWs.

    The bill proposes to increase the tax exemption value from the present $500 to $2,000. Recto said by raising the exemption limit, the “motive and the temptation” to open boxes would be eliminated.

    ‘OFWs no criminals’
    Vice President Jejomar Binay also on Tuesday said the BOC should change its wrong premise that OFWs are criminals who smuggle goods through the balikbayan boxes they send home.

    “Huwag po nating siraan ‘yong imahe ng ating mga OFW. ‘Yong pagbubukas ng kahon na ‘yon, ang pinagmumulan noon ay ‘Nagi-smuggle kayo. Lumalabag kayo sa batas.’ Huwag naman [Let us not smear the image of our OFWs. The opening of balikbayan boxes, it originates from ‘You {OFWs] are smuggling. You are breaking the law.’ That presmption is to much],” the Vice President said in an interview over Radyo 5.

    Binay, the former Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, said only the courts can decide if a person has violated the law or not.

    Run after syndicates
    Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also on Tuesday said the BOC should actively go after syndicates operating inside the bureau.

    According to Marcos, he is thankful that the Aquino administration realized that the move of BOC to physically check balikbayan boxes is a mistake and that a huge majority of Filipinos have expressed strong objections to it.

    “I don’t understand this oppression of our OFWs. They [OFWs] were forced to find work aboard, away from their families because the government can’t provide them work and now the government wants to check balikbayan boxes on suspicion that they are trying to smuggle item into the country,” Marcos said in an interview after speaking to students of the University of Perpetual Help in Las Piñas City (Metro Manila).

    If the BOC wants to improve its collection, he added, the best thing to do is to seriously go after syndicates operating inside the bureau.

    “We have heard of 2,000 containers that had disappeared and could not be found by the Customs [bureau]. We received news that even trash from another country found its way to Philippine soil, yet they are zeroing in on balikbayan boxes,” Marcos said.

    WITH BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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    16 Comments

    1. we OFW’s are mostly victims of drug trafficking, it’s a big insult to us to be accused of drug traffickers and smugglers, despite our efforts to not to be burdened by the government and to help also the economy and then the president also adding insult to our injury by telling that our remittances didn’t effect the Philippine economy.

    2. Felix Servidad on

      Pnoy and his cohorts realized that every OFWs plus their dependents will be a big threat for him and his yellow army in the upcoming election.

    3. I send bbboxes home too . It is very insulting for OFW’s that their very own privacy be invaded by our government. It’s not just the content of this boxes that’s being vandalized but our very own hopes and wishes and love for our dear families in the receiving end.
      It’s bad enough that the delays of delivery is happening . Now they want to scrutinize every detail inside the bbox.
      Another way of BSAquino government to make more taxable issues for BOC collection for their own gain!

    4. It looks like VP Binay is taking chances to take the sympathy of ofw? Not you Binay,, you and lina are same .

    5. Welfare of OFWs or impending lost of Mar Roxas? Was that Noynoy referring to? Not the welfare of OFWs! Pretty sure vested interest ito ng mga hunghang na ito. Ngayon, may nagsabi na di takot ang mga taga Malacanang sa mga OFWs, eh di dare ko kayo ituloy ninyo ang palpak na ginagawa ninyo sa pagbubukas ng balikbayan boxes, tignan ko lang kung di mangyari ang mismong iniisip nila na maaapektuhan ang boto ni Miss Mar Roxas Sanchez. He he he! Mga ogag! Togasin kuno, wala namang mga sinabi!

    6. Why don’t we let the Aquino government try what the OFWs can do? After all, what they do doesn’t affect the economy directly according to Lacierda. Duh!

    7. not political whiplash? poor Mr Coloma, lying again! they just lost 10million votes from all OFW families, only a miracle or cheating can save the losing LP candidates, Again, the OFW are the silent heroes saving us from these “syndicates” and insanities of the in-breds….

    8. Bobski Natividad on

      This is what the OFW gets in return for their hard work abroad, when idiots and nincompoops are placed in the BOC.

    9. Willie Enriquez on

      I am sad how some cracked head finally proven the poor leadership of Pres. Aquino.
      But. Who’s to blamed?? Those Filipinos who put him in power. His Mom was a lame Duck President accordingly. But, Somehow she has a better Judgement than her Good looking rich bachelor son. Until. Many Wondered whats wrong with him at his aged he never settled down. Are the rumors right that he has a woman heart in a male body. The reasons he never find himself a woman and children to loved? He can be easily swayed by his advisers blindedly to act something that is detrimental to some Filipinos families. It’s no secret that Corruptions is in the highest during his failed leadership. And all they can do is inflict more sufferings and sadness to the Millions of Overseas Filipino Workers. Adding to that insult was the Statement of a certain Ms. Roselle Tan an employee of the BOC. God knows personnel of the BOC opened most Balikbayan Boxes and took some items the Deemed as Contraband w/o informing the rightful owner the they held in their possession One Piece 110 volts Circular saw worth $ 30 and One Piece 110 volts Portable Wood Planer worth $ 60 and both are used tools that you’re donating. Because, We bought a new ones. But.
      Those old tools never reach its destination. Now, Its almost Christmas time. We wondered if we should pay $95 for a Balikbayan Box and most likely some of the content will be lost for sure. Its just sad you left the Philippines 30 years ago. And those crooked still exist in the Philippines. And One Custom personnel has the nerve
      to insult former Filipinos who are living abroad as dumb as they are. We passed all time tested Foreign Examination from a First Rated Countries in the World compared to the 3rd World country like my former Philippines. We will retire comfortably without sucking the nerve of other former Countrymen. Just to generate Taxes and only end in some corrupt officials. Philippine Officials are mindless…Starting how they treated their only World Boxer in the name of Manny Pacquiao. I lost totally the respect after those maligning insult that the World heard and Laugh. The Rich will be Richer and the Poor will be Poorer in the Philippines. Unless, The Voters will use their wise Judgement in this coming Presidential Election. Don’t act on Dole out or the Influence of some Entertainment personalities. Don’t succumb to their lies and promises. Wake-Up and think of your family future. Sometimes, The less popular and connected might be the one who can improved the Country atleast. Never vote a party in block. Choose the one you believe who can really deliver reform, development and progress.

    10. Di instrction ni mismo ang physical inspections? Ngayon itong si mr. Bla-bla-blah nagmamayabang pa na si PNoy daw ang dahilan bakit hindi na matutuoy, yabang ano!!!