BOC: No hike in balikbayan box tax but strict checks to continue
Defending its move to be more meticulous with balikbayan boxes entering the country, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said on Sunday, it was not after overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) or their hard-earned “pasalubong” (homecoming gifts) for loved ones but after smugglers or “riders” who have been sneaking in contraband through fake consignees.
In a statement issued on Sunday by the BOC public information and assistance division, the bureau also clarified that it was neither increasing taxes on the balikbayan boxes nor trying to impede existing processes.
“We are not after the OFWs or their pasalubong to their families. We are after the smugglers who have resorted to using the 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,” it stated.
It also advised families or relatives of OFWs getting “severely tampered” balikbayan boxes or those with missing items to report such cases to the bureau for assistance. “Let us know so we can properly help you,” it said.
The BOC issued this statement after several lawmakers lambasted its plan to clamp down on balikbayan boxes on suspicion that these were being used as a smuggling channel while huge containers and smuggled luxury cars continued to enter the country under the noses of bureau inspectors.
The BOC estimates that an average of 1,000 containers of balikbayan boxes (400 boxes per container) arrive each month in Philippine ports. It has estimated that the government has been losing P50 million a month or P600 million a year.
But lawmakers argued that this was just a small amount compared to the total sum of smuggled goods ranging from $20 billion to $24 billion a year based on the disparity between the official data of exports to the country and the country’s recorded imports.
In its statement on Sunday, the bureau said existing rules on balikbayan boxes still applied, including inspection as provided in the law. But it said that, since it has not been technologically equipped to scrutinize all incoming boxes, spot checks would continue to be conducted as an alternative move.
Stricter compliance to the law is necessary because the provisions on consolidated shipments have been abused, according to the BOC.
“It is not the Customs that plans to take advantage of our OFWs. What the bureau wants is to stop smugglers from abusing the system,” it further stated, stressing that the bureau has paid greatly in revenue losses because of these smuggling activities. Jocelyn R. Uy, Philippine Daily Inquirer
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