BUREAU of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon has assured arriving passengers, especially overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), that customs personnel are under strict orders not to subject any ‘‘balikbayan’’ box to “random” or “arbitrary physical inspection.”
“The policy has been the bureau’s practice since the release of Customs Memorandum Order 27-2015, which was signed on 2 September 2015.
“This CMO states that balikbayan boxes of OFWs shall not be subjected to random or arbitrary physical inspection, and instead shall only undergo mandatory x-ray scanning,” Faeldon said in a statement released by the bureau’s Public Information and Assistance Division (PIAD).
The customs chief made the clarification following the filing by Senate President Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III of Senate Bill (SB) 1168 or the ‘Expanded Balikbayan Program’ where among the key provisions is the “no opening” of balikbayan boxes by the bureau.
Faeldon also stressed that “proper procedures” are already put in place in dealing with suspicious boxes which would only be opened in the presence of representatives from various offices to include those from a recognized OFW association.
With the expected release and approval of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), Faeldon added that the ‘ceiling’ of tax-exempt balikbayan boxes has been increased from P10,000 to P150,000 “provided that balikbayan boxes shall only contain personal and household effects and not in commercial quantities.”
Faeldon also warned unscrupulous individuals from “abusing” the privilege accorded to returning OFWs.
“Pabayaan n’yo na ang balikbayan boxes. Privilege ito ng OFWs, maganda ito para sa kanila. ’Wag sanang bastusin ang batas,” the customs chief stressed.
Faeldon made the warning after the bureau last August intercepted a balikbayan box from the United States containing several pieces of high-caliber firearms.