OFW rights group asks BOC to stop going through balikbayan boxes
An organization for Overseas Filipino Workers called on the Bureau of Customs to stop the stricter measures it has put in place for balikbayan boxes, saying the agency must think of other ways to resolve issues on duties and taxes.
In an interview with "Balitanghali" on Monday, OFW Family Club president Roy Señeres Jr., said: "Dapat huwag nilang itulak at kung kailangan nilang tugunan ang smuggling o pagtataas ng buwis, gawan nila ng ibang paraan na hindi naiipit o napeperwisyo ang mga OFWs natin."
"'Wag nilang gawin 'yung stricter measures, kasi mali po ang dating sa mga OFWs na pinakikialaman 'yung kanilang mga gamit," he said.
Señeres said that while they acknowledge that the BOC must address issues, particularly smuggling, it must not be done at the expense of the balikbayan boxes sent by OFWs in general.
"Kung ilan lang iyong galing sa intel nila, doon na lang mag-focus. Mag-focus sila doon sa kung saan may pruweba naman talaga sila... Dumaan sa tamang proseso, hindi iyong sinasabi nila na random check, tapos bubuksan, guguluhin iyong laman sa loob," he said.
For his part, former BOC Commissioner Ruffy Biazon appealed to OFWs to understand the more stringent process needed in screening their balikbayan boxes, given that some packages have been used over the years to smuggle firearms and used clothing for sale at "ukay-ukay" thrift stores.
In an interview with "News To Go", Biazon said this rule has been in place for a while now, but that stricter measures will be put in place by the present administration there.
"Nauunawaan ko 'yung pinanggagalingan ng kasalukuyang administrasyon ng BOC dahil may batas na maaaring magsagawa ng inspection at may mga nagpupuslit talaga," he said. "Noong panahon namin, doon kami nakakakuha ng firearms gamit ang balikbayan boxes kaya may pagbabantay kaming ginawa diyan."
He pointed out that while a lot of OFWs accurately declare the contents of the packages they send, there are still others who try to sneak prohibited items in.
Among these items are used clothing that will be sold, or the so-called "ukay ukay."
"May batas talaga na nagsasabing bawal ang pagpapadala ng ukay-ukay. 'Yung iba, ginagawang iba-ibang pangalan ang nagpapadala ng bawat boxes... Lumalabas na buong container, iisa lang pala ang may-ari na iba-iba lang ang pangalan. Malaking indication na smuggled na ukay-ukay 'yun," he said.
New set of rules
He said this has prompted, for example, the Customs bureaus of the Philippines and of the US to be more diligent in checking packages sent between countries.
"Kapag galing Amerika, maraming high-value items na kailangan ng buwis at gaya ng mga firearms na nakuha namin, kailangang busisiin... Hindi maiaalis na real threat ang mga kontrabando. Sa Amerika, naka-profile din na kapag galing Pilipinas, ini-inspect nila," he said.
He added: "May profiling silang ganiyan dahil kilala nang between customs na may trafficking na ng firearms... Sa ating mga kababayan, unawain na lang nila ang profiling na iyon."
Biazon said the BOC could come up with a new set of rules, with specifics regarding the way packages from OFWs are handled.
"Ang mangyayari niyan, majority ng ordinaryong Pilipino ay maaapektuhan ng batas. Para sa akin, gumawa na lang ng bagong set of rules. Sa OFWs, may different procedure para masiguro ang pinapadala ng tama," he said. — Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/JDS, GMA News