Time to amend P10K ‘balikbayan’ box limit
Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento on Tuesday said the controversy over the decision of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to open boxes shipped by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the country was a “wake-up” call to amend the 37-year-old Tariff and Customs Code of 1978.
Sarmiento said it was ridiculous to levy taxes on balikbayan boxes “based on the provisions of an outdated tariff and customs law.”
Under the customs code, or Presidential Decree No. 1464, the taxable threshold for parcels shipped to the country is P10,000, meaning only items worth that much or below are exempt from tax.
“I’m afraid that our [countrymen] who are sending balikbayan boxes to their relatives and friends here in the Philippines are also correct in their claim that the threshold for taxable parcel, which is P10,000, is already too unrealistic and outdated,” Sarmiento said in a statement.
“This is something that the BOC should consider for humanitarian grounds until Congress makes the necessary correction on our present Tariff and Customs Law,” he said.
He called on Congress to pass a joint resolution raising the threshold to P50,000 to “avoid a long-drawn legislative process.”
“Commissioner [Alberto] Lina should realize that P10,000 nowadays is only worth 2 pairs of shoes or just around 100 cans of Spam,” Sarmiento said.
Recto bill raises tax exemption
“Using the taxable threshold set by a 37-year-old law is definitely unacceptable and outrageous to our overseas Filipino workers who have been the country’s lifeblood,” he added.
In the Senate, two lawmakers also want to raise the tax-exempt value of balikbayan boxes.
Sen. Ralph Recto has filed a bill that would increase the tax-exempt value of the contents of balikbayan boxes from $500 to $2,000 (about P93,200), almost double the amount proposed by Sarmiento.
“The order of the President is very laudable and time-on-target,” Recto said on Tuesday. “But what the OFWs want is not temporary relief but permanent protection against whimsical search and seizures of their padala (gifts).”
Increasing the tax-exempt ceiling for the OFWs’ packages would reduce the motive and temptation to open up the boxes, according to Recto.
A $2,000 ceiling would be hard to breach, according to Recto.
“The intent of this bill is to recognize the Philippine tradition and culture of promoting and preserving strong family ties as represented by a balikbayan box carefully loaded with goodies by our hardworking OFWs,” he said.
Sen. Bam Aquino also favors raising the tax-exempt ceiling for OFWs’ balikbayan box to a more realistic level.
Sarmiento expressed support for President Aquino’s decision to order the BOC to stop opening balikbayan boxes unless X-ray and K-9 examinations indicated possible contraband items.
“This decision of President Aquino only shows that he understands the problem and he shares the sentiment of our people,” he said.
But Sarmiento said he saw nothing wrong with the decision of the BOC to conduct inspections on balikbayan boxes “as long as all the necessary measures are put in place to ensure that no parcel is lost or damaged in the process.”
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