BOC reiterates ‘no opening of balikbayan box’ policy

MANILA — The Bureau of Customs (BoC) reminded anew the people that its personnel are no longer allowed to physically inspect balikbayan boxes.

With this, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon said they are now finalizing the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) to fully implement new rules on tax exemptions for balikbayan boxes.

Under the CMTA, the tax exemption ceiling for balikbayan boxes was increased from PHP10,000 to PHP150,000 — provided, that balikbayan boxes shall only contain personal and household effects and not in commercial quantities, and that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) can only avail of this privilege up to three times in a calendar year.

For balikbayan box-related complaints and concerns, the public may forward them to the Bureau’s Customer Assistance and Response Services (BOC-CARES) at telephone number (02) 705-6000, email address, Twitter account @CustomsPH, BOC.Cares.

Faeldon issued the statement in connection with the filing of Senate Bill (SB) 1168 by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, which institutes the Expanded Balikbayan Program.

Among other provisions, the bill seeks to mandate the “no opening of balikbayan box” policy of the bureau. Such policy has been the BoC’s practice since the release of Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 27-2015, which was signed on September 2, 2015.

Likewise, the memorandum 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. Proper procedures are put in place.

In cases of shipments tagged “suspect” after x-ray scanner, the inspector shall recommend the issuance of an Alert Order.

The boxes shall then be subjected to 100% physical examination at an authorized examination area to be conducted by a Customs Examiner in the presence of the apprehending officers, freight forwarder consolidator, representatives of the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) and or a designated officer of an OFW Association.

For boxes without violation, they shall be segregated and released to allow continuous processing.

The SB 1168 also proposes to exempt from taxes and duties one balikbayan box per month, regardless of the total dutiable value of its contents. PNA –