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Impact of zero remittance day being tracked

Officials will be assessing the impact of the so-called “Zero Remittance Day” on Friday that proponents said was a success.

Several groups have called for a halt in fund transfers on Friday in protest against the stricter inspections of Balikbayan boxes by the Bureau of Customs which has since been stopped by President Benigno Aquino III.

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Sending goods—mostly consumer items for personal use—in Balikbayan boxes is popular with overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). However, BOC officials said that Balikbayan boxes were also being used by smugglers to avoid payment of Customs duties.

The trigger

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The BOC’s announcement that it would conduct random inspections on Balikbayan boxes triggered the backlash among OFWs and their families.

To protest the government move, Migrante International, a militant organization claiming to represent OFWs, called for a “zero remittance.”

“We understand the concern of our migrants who use the courier system for legitimate purposes,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said in a statement.

“We believe there can be a workable arrangement so that the needs of the government for tracking down those who use the system for illegal purposes can also be addressed,” he said.

Earlier this week, President Aquino ordered the BOC to do away with random inspections and instead ordered the mandatory X-rays of container vans containing “Balikbayan” boxes. Only boxes suspect of containing smuggled goods would be physically opened.

 

10 percent of GDP

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Remittances from OFWs make up about a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). In June, cash transfers rose 6.1 percent to $2.18 billion, the highest level since December last year, latest data showed.

June’s result brought the year-to-date total to $12.08 billion, higher by 5.6 percent year-on-year.

Remittances are the largest source of dollar income for the Philippines, which keeps the peso strong by ensuring the steady supply of foreign exchange that local businesses and the government need for transactions overseas.

“The BSP has worked hard to encourage OFWs to send their remittances through formal channels, so we trust that this complication can be quickly addressed,” Tetangco said.

As this developed, Migrante declared that Friday’s “Zero Remittance Day” was a success.

“We declare today’s Zero Remittance Day a success and resounding declaration of OFWs’ unity and collective action against any and all moves by the Aquino government to scam us and treat us as nothing but milking cows. We have once again proven that we are worth much more than the dollars, and the balikbayan boxes, we send,” Migrante said in a statement.

In the Philippines, families have been prodding their relatives abroad to join the Zero Remittance Day, according to Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist chair.

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TAGS: “Zero Remittance Day, balikbayan boxes, Bureau of Customs, Fund Transfers, Migrante
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