outbrain
Close  

‘Balikbayan’ backlash: Fewer boxes this year

/ 02:23 AM November 01, 2015
PHOTO BY CRISTINA P. RODRIGUEZ

PHOTO BY CRISTINA P. RODRIGUEZ

CLARK FREEPORT—Instead of the usual avalanche of “balikbayan” boxes, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) seem to be sending the message “better safe than sorry” this preholiday season.

“The volume of balikbayan boxes being sent home at this time is not reflective of the peak season,” OFW advocate Susan Ople said in a media forum on Friday, citing information from cargo forwarders.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sending fewer of the customary box of goodies could be “the aftermath of the (planned) manual inspection” earlier announced by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) as a measure to curb smuggling, Ople said.

In August, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina said the boxes would be opened and inspected manually as they were being used to smuggle highly dutiable items, drugs and firearms.  The government was losing P3 billion to P6 billion a year in customs duties because of the illegal practice, the BOC chief said.

FEATURED STORIES

No physical inspection

But public protests against the planned manual inspection that, families of OFWs said, could result in pilferage prompted President Aquino himself to reverse the move.

On the President’s instructions, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said there would be “no random or arbitrary physical inspection of balikbayan boxes.” Instead, the boxes would undergo mandatory X-ray and K-9 examination, at no cost to the sender or the OFW.

“Only in cases where there are derogatory findings from the X-ray or K-9 examination will there be a physical inspection of goods,” Purisima added, quoting Mr. Aquino.

Public confusion

guyitoShould a manual inspection be necessary, representatives of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and an OFW association will be present, and the procedure monitored and recorded by a closed-circuit TV camera, the finance official said.

Ople said the reduced volume might be the result of the public’s confusion about the policy, as well as fear among OFWs that their packages would be opened without their permission.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The Bureau of Customs should fast-track its information campaign on the current policy on balikbayan boxes,” Ople said during the forum of the Capampangans in Media Inc.

In a meeting with Inquirer editors and reporters in August, Purisima and President Aquino “emphasized that OFW families view the balikbayan box as an integral part of the family relationship (meant) to nurture loved ones at home, and a tangible sign of their love and concern for family members.”

Purisima said employees who would violate the new protocol and engage in pilferage of the balikbayan boxes would be prosecuted and punished.

The finance official estimated that 1,500 cargo containers of balikbayan boxes are brought in a month, totaling some 7.2 million boxes a year.

RELATED STORIES

‘Laglag-bala’ raised with Aquino, Abaya; CCTVs to be installed–Palace

Aquino orders BOC: Only suspect OFW boxes must be opened

Customs hit: Hands off OFW boxes of goodies

Read Next
EDITORS' PICK
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Balikbayan Box, Bureau of Customs, Global Nation, ofws, Overseas Filipino workers, Smuggling, Susan Ople
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.