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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Duterte: I Prohibited the Bureau of Customs From Opening OFW's Balikbayan Boxes

President Rodrigo Duterte  prohibited the Bureau of Custom from opening the OFWs Balikbayan boxes in an address to around a thousand Overseas Filipinos in Thailand during his last leg of ASEAN visit. He also assured OFW's that their balikbayan boxes will be safe through the Bureau of Customs especially during Christmas season.

Balikbayan boxes are the traditional packages or and gift boxes sent by Overseas Filipino Workers to their love ones and relatives in the Philippines.

Duterte also mentioned that many politicians get special privileges at the airport which are not accorded to ordinary people. He said, politicians usually get salute at the airport while the poor gets their stuff  taken from them during the inspection. 
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) was also accused of unnecessarily opening up balikbayan boxes during inspection to check for smuggled goods. Upon delivery, many families and relatives complains missing items from their rummage.
Duterte said, it is already a custom among Filipinos who work overseas to bring gifts or "pasalubong" for their relatives. He advised to inform the officer that those are all gifts, from the hard-earned money. He joked, that it is natural that during the homecoming or vacation of the OFW there would be gifts for almost everyone in the family and there are 20 more luggages to follow.
He even told OFWs to be assertive of their rights, even giving them permission to drop his name.

On the other hand, Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon of the Bureau of Customs reiterates Memorandum no, 2016-11-016 regarding handling of Balikbayan Boxes.

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With the growing number of illegal acts taking advantage of the privilege given to the OFWs balikbayan boxes apprehended by the Bureau of Customs, the bureau has to do something to prevent these people to continue exploiting balikbayan boxes for the benefit of their illegal operations.  Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon says the agency's working on a system to prevent OFW names from being hacked and used without their knowledge--and Balikbayan Boxes from being used to smuggle contrabands. In an interview with Bloomberg Philippines, Commissioner Faeldon discussed the measures they are taking  to keep the balikbayan boxes and the OFWs protected.  The balikbayan box privilege given to the OFWs under the new Customs and Modernization and Tariff Act are as follows:   Started last Christmas (2016), they can send balikbayan boxes home tax-free for up to three (3) times a year.  The total value of all three balikbayan boxes should not be more than ₱150,000 and the number of items in the packages should just be suited for personal use and not in commercial quantities.  The Bureau of Customs (BOC) clarifies that this privilege is extended to "qualified Filipinos living abroad," which are overseas Filipino workers (OFW), students, tourist visa holders, Filipinos with dual citizenship, and Filipinos who have legal overseas residency status .  However, the balikbayan box privileges can be vulnerable for use by illegal smugglers and , thus, the BOC is formulating a measure to  protect the balikbayan boxes and prevent these things from happening.      Here is the conversation with BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon  with Bloomberg Philippines.  "We are now devising a system that monitors movement of names and addresses.       So we have to really coordinate with the DTI who's really the one regulating these companies, it's not the Bureau of Customs. Their accreditation is with the DTI.    [Bloomberg] But inspections on balikbayan boxes will still be done the same way with x-rays to guard against contraband, for example?       Of course, that's our mandate-- make sure that walang entry of prohibited commodities in the country. But when there's no reason to open it we will not open it.  [Bloomberg] Many of your clients are businessmen who rely on the BOC to handle their shipments for their supplies, for example,but they perceive this agency as corrupt - what's your commitment to them and would you require anything from their end to help in this anti-corruption drive?    First, I'm not threatening the importers. I'm very serious about this. By the end of the year, all those I've researched, because we have no record. When I assumed [BOC office], I asked for the record of offenders, wala hong record eh, so I have to go back manually to our records on who have committed illicit trade in the past. I'll be cancelling their import permits.Publish the name of the company and the names.     You cannot go back. You have to really prove that those records we have here are not true, are not intentional acts on your part to defraud the government of tariff, so we'll really make it very hard for you to go back to this industry. Anyway we have around 11,000 accredited importers. We do not need 11,000. In fact we do not have 11,000 import commodities. We would like to invite more importers to come but we need an honest importer.    ©2017 THOUGHTSKOTO

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