THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) reminded returning Filipino overseas workers and residents “not to abuse” the tax and duty free privilege accorded to them by the new rules on the bringing into the country of ‘balikbayan’ boxes or face the full force of the law.
Retired Philippine Marines colonel, Neil Estrella, the bureau’s acting spokesperson, said they have taken “appropriate measures” to prevent the abuse of the expanded privilege for returning Filipinos as Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 5-2016 takes full effect on December 25, Christmas Day.
“As the new rules can already be considered a ‘bonanza’ for our returning countrymen, may we remind them not to abuse the privilege like using fake invoices in declaring the value of their shipment or using the balikbayan box to smuggle contrabands. “Definitely, they will be caught and charged accordingly,” Estrella warned. Only last August, when the draft of CAO 5-2016 is still being prepared, the BOC caught and charged two suspects from Bacolod City who were found to have used several balikbayan boxes to smuggle in firearms and gun parts from the United States worth more than P4.5 million.
Under the new rules, boxes for their loved ones brought in by the so-called ‘qualified Filipinos while abroad’ (QFWA) and with an estimated value of P150,000, are no longer subject to taxes and duties. The amount, however, covers the aggregate amount of “pasalubong” brought in by any returning Filipino who went abroad three times in a single year.
Specifically, CAO 5-2016 covers the following: Filipino holders of valid passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and certified by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) or the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for overseas employment purposes regardless of profession; Non-resident Filipinos who have established permanent residency abroad but retained their Filipino citizenship; and, Filipino citizens who temporarily stayed abroad or those holders of student visa, investors’ visa, tourist visa, and similar visas which allow them to stay temporarily abroad.
The new rules also cover boxes brought in thru the so-called ‘consolidated’ shipments while those brought in thru other means shall be covered by a different CAO, the bureau said in a statement. The government was forced to hasten the passage of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) that include increasing the tax-free privilege of returning Filipinos after the issue of taxing balikbayan boxes created an uproar during the Aquino administration and at the BOC under customs commissioner Alberto Lina, the predecessor of Comm. Nicanor Faeldon.