The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is not keen on being part of the group that will inspect suspicious balikbayan boxes, saying it lacks manpower for it.
"It’s not part of the OWWA mandate to inspect, whether to witness or be part of the inspection of balikbayan boxes,” said OWWA Administrator Rebecca Calzado during a hearing at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
In its revised rules and regulations released Wednesday, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) said only balikbayan boxes that have been tagged as suspicious after X-ray and K-9 examinations will be subjected to a full physical examination by authorities.
The inspection, it said, should be conducted in the presence of representatives from OWWA and the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) sector.
The BoC had to revised its rules after its original plan of manually inspecting balikbayan boxes, which drew flak from OFWs, was stopped by President Benigno Aquino III.
The controversial policy was the subject of Wednesday's hearing by the House committee on overseas workers affairs.
During the hearing, Calzado said they "neither have the resources nor expertise" to join in the inspection of balikbayan boxes.
"We’re not sure what role they want us to play," she added.
The OWWA official also said the BoC already has the necessary regulations and expertise to do its job
During the same hearing, former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople said the BoC should issue a public apology over its previous plan to manually inspect balikbayan boxes.
"We believe that the Bureau of Customs should apologize on record to all OFWs," said Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a group that helps distressed OFWs. "They (OFWs) deserve that apology."
Ople also rejected the argument of the BoC that the issue was "lost in translation."
"Hindi totoo ‘yan. There was no clarity and coherence in policy setting…Kaya ngayon, dapat everything has to be in writing. Ang natutuwa ay ‘yung smugglers dahil sila yung nakakalimutan,” she said. —KBK, GMA News