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Shipping 101: A quick guide to holiday shipping

/ 09:02 PM December 10, 2015
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PHOTO BY CRISTINA P. RODRIGUEZ

A safe, secured, and hassle-free package is among the concerns of Filipinos especially the millions of overseas Filipino workers sending holiday packages to their loved ones in the Philippines.

UPS Border Clearance Manager Leeberti Mendez has shared few tips for Filipino shoppers looking to send packages to their friends or relatives abroad and for Filipino families expecting balikbayan boxes from their relatives.

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Find out what you can and cannot send.

Mendez said different countries have different regulations when it comes to what can and cannot be shipped to their country. He cited the regulation in the United States that requires pearls or mother of pearls a certificate from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) since it is considered as wildlife. He added that in Dubai, playing cards and fireworks are considered restricted items.

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“For first-time UPS customers, we usually ask them to come to our office and pack the items there,” Mendez said.

“We’ve had instances where customers tried to send cakes or even native delicacies. We will advise customers if it’s better to hand carry certain items or if it’s best to not send these at all, as these could lead to spoilage or even penalties for the recipient,” he added.

He advised that if you’re not sure if you can or can send a particular item, you can contact UPS’s customer service hotline at (02) 853-3333.

Make sure you have your packing list and invoices on hand.

After finalizing the items that will be sent to your relative or friend, he said that logistics companies typically ask the customer to provide a packing list and the invoices for the items to be shipped. By giving more details and transparency on the items to be shipped, it would enable logistics companies like UPS to better advise and compute the applicable taxes and duties.

Ensure your package is packed correctly.

Mendez advised individuals to follow these key steps to ensure that their packages are secure and to avoid any possible losses or damages to the items:

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• Use corrugated boxes in good, rigid condition with all of the flaps intact;
• When sending documents or other printed items, make sure that the packaging is as compact as possible. For fragile products, senders should leave plenty of room for adequate cushioning.
• When packing fragile products, use soft cushioning material for lightweight products and stronger cushioning material for heavier items. Avoid using polystyrene loose fill as these will allow for movement during transport.
• Apply the ‘shake test’ to your package. What it means is that there should be no room for movement inside the box. If the items inside the package are dislodged, make sure to repack to avoid spills or to avoid damage during transport.
• Use strong plastic tape (at least two inches wide) or water-activated reinforced tape to provide adequate protection to your package.
• For faster, more efficient delivery, place the address label on the top of the box. Do not put the labels on the seams or the closures or on top of the sealing tape to prevent any damage to the label.

Prepare for possible duties and taxes charged to your package.

“One of the most common misconceptions that customers have is that the term ‘door-to-door’ means that their package would not have to go through Customs and would just be delivered straight to the designated addresses,” Mendez shared.

“This is, however, not the case as all shipments have to pass through Customs. Both sender and recipient will also have to keep in mind that whatever they send may be subject to duties and taxes,” he added.

Contrary to common perceptions, he said computing for duties and taxes is not as difficult as people would think.

“You can actually compute for your shipment’s projected duties and taxes online using the basic formula found at www.customs.gov.ph/references/tax-computation. For UPS customers, they will also be able to get information on the estimated duties and taxes to be paid via UPS’s website,” he said.

Mendez said that multiple items require multiple computations since each item would have a different rate of duty based on the materials it is made out of. For people sending or receiving packages for the first time, the rate of duty is a tax on imports in terms of a specific amount per unit, such as a few pesos per kilogram or a percentage of the value of the item.

Find out if thresholds would affect the release of your shipment.

Another thing that sometimes surprises online shoppers or families of overseas Filipino workers is the fact that relatively cheap items can be charged with duties and taxes.

Mendez shared that packages are levied duties and taxes based on whether or not they meet the Philippines’ threshold of duty.

“In Philippines, if the value of your packages is below Php944.00 (US$20.00), it is declared as having ‘no commercial value,’ and it will be released without inspection,” he said.

“Any item that costs above Php944.00 (US$20.00) is considered of having ‘commercial value’ and, therefore, is subject to duties and taxes.”

To expedite the process, he said UPS has its own threshold—for customers shipping personal items worth Php10, 000.00 (US$212.00) and below, UPS usually pays for the duties and taxes so that the shipment can be released. The UPS driver would then collect the relevant duties and taxes from customers upon delivery. Anything above Php10, 000.00 (US$212.00) would stay in the Customs warehouse. UPS would then contact the customer and confirm if they would agree to pay. Once they agree to pay the duties and taxes, the shipment would be released.

However, there may be exemptions for balikbayan boxes that may benefit overseas Filipino workers. Balikbayan boxes worth Php10, 000.00 (US$212.00) or below may be exempted from duties and taxes; however, recipients will need to request a tax exemption certificate from the Department of Finance. This can be requested by the family as soon as the package comes in, as it can take up to two to three weeks to deliver this to the family. The recipients of the balikbayan box will also need to the following documents: a request letter for tax exemption, a sworn affidavit of undertaking, and the original commercial invoice and packing list.

For overseas Filipino workers who are coming home for good, they will need to prepare the following: work visa, employment contract, a copy of passport and a copy of company ID.

Yes, someone can receive your package for you.

One of the challenges that people face when expecting shipments from other countries is making sure that they are at home or at the office during the day and time that the shipment will be delivered. This can be a hassle, especially if they have a busy work schedule or if they have to be somewhere else during the day.

Mendez shared that UPS customers can endorse their shipment to a family member or a colleague, so as to save them the hassle of having to take a leave or a long break just to receive a shipment. Recipients will only need to provide a letter of authorization and two government IDs to enable the UPS driver to confirm their identity.

With the holidays fast approaching, Mendez believed that knowing how the system works and which requirements are necessary would help create a hassle-free experience for everyone.

“At UPS, we strive to give our customers a stress-free shipping experience, especially during the holidays,” he said.

“We hope that by sharing these tips and these pieces of information, more Filipinos and their families would spend less time worrying about shipping their packages and balikbayan boxes, and spend more time enjoying their gifts.” TVJ

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TAGS: Balikbayan Box, balikbayan boxes, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Leeberti Mendez, Shipping, UPS, UPS shipping
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