BoC assures OFWs: We are not after your ‘pasalubong’
The Bureau of Customs (BoC) clarified on Sunday that imposing stricter regulations on balikbayan boxes does not mean that they are singling out overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who send pasulubong (homecoming gifts) to their loved ones in the Philippines.
It said that tougher rules will be imposed to curb the practice of traders of using balikbayan boxes to smuggle duty and tax free products into the country.
“We are not after the OFWs or their pasalubong to families. We are after the smugglers who have resorted to using balikbayan boxes and consolidated shipments to smuggle contraband in the country through fake consignees or insertion of smuggled boxes or goods, otherwise known as riders, in consolidated shipments,” the BoC said in a statement.
The government agency said that contrary to reports, it has not announced that it will increase taxes on balikbayan boxes and that it is authorized by law to open boxes.
OFWs took to social media to express their anger on the plan of the BoC to open balikbayan boxes before they will be released to their families.
“To our overseas Filipino workers, the Bureau of Customs is not increasing taxes on the balikbayan boxes nor do we want to impede in existing processes. No such statement on tax increase has been made.”
“Existing rules on the balikbayan boxes still apply, including inspection as stipulated in the law. However, as mentioned before, the bureau is not technologically equipped to inspect all incoming boxes as we want. Alternatively, spot checks have been and will continue to be conducted,” it added.
The BoC said that it cares for the welfare of OFWs.
“Stricter compliance is necessary because the rules on consolidated shipments have been abused. Hindi Customs ang nagbabalak abusuhin ang mga OFWs. Ang gusto namin sa Customs ay matigil na ang pang-aabuso sa sistema na dulot ng smugglers (The BoC does not seek to abuse OFWs. What we want is to stop the abuse done by smugglers),” the statement read.
The BoC estimated that it was losing P50 million a month or P600 million a year due to alleged smuggled goods brought into the country through balikbayan boxes.
In an interview on Sunday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Undersecretary Abigail Valte said that it will let the BoC know the feedback of various OFW groups on the issue.
“Naiintindihan po natin ‘yung damdamin ng mga nagpadala po sa atin ng feedback, dahil alam niyo ho, ‘yung mga balikbayan box po na ‘yan ay matagal pong iniipon. Tuwing sumusuweldo po nagtatabi nang kaunti makabili po ‘nung mga kaunting ipapadala dito sa mga kamag-anak dito sa Pilipinas. Kaya naiintindihan po natin ‘yung mga damdamin ng ating mga kababayan at kailangan makarating din naman po sa Customs ‘yung nagiging epekto ng kanilang regulasyon,” Valte said in an interview over state-run dzRB radio.
(We understand what they feel because the contents of these balikbayan boxes were saved diligently by our OFWs. They earmark a portion of their salaries to buy things which they send to their loved ones here in the Philippines. That is why we understand their sentiments and that the BoC should know the repercussions of their regulation.)
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