Starting August 1, only relatives of the sender can receive balikbayan boxes sent from overseas, GMA News' JP Soriano reported on 24 Oras on Thursday, citing a memorandum from the Bureau of Customs.
Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017 also states that a balikbayan box should include an itemized list of its contents as well as receipts for items that are newly purchased.
However, these new regulations do not sit well with forwarding companies, saying they make sending packages burdensome to Filipinos abroad.
"Kung ang reglamentos ng Customs ay ayon sa batas na nakalagay ngayon, ito ay magpapabigat sa ating mga kababayan," said lawyer James Ian Dela Vega, counsel for Door To Door Consolidators Association of the Philippines (DDCAP).
"Kung pinadala niya po ito sa kanyang kaibigan, sa kanyang girlfriend o sa kanyang nobya, hindi po siyang maaring magkaroon ng availment doon sa insentibong o pribileyong ibinibigay ng batas," he also said.
Under CMO 04-2017, senders must also prove that they are Filipino by giving a xeroxed copy of their passports to the forwarding company, and must be amenable to possible inspection of their boxes.
"Kung sakaling mali, hindi kumpleto, walang resibo, maaring patawan siya ng Bureau of Customs ng kaukulang duties and taxes para sa pinadala niyang mga personal na bagay na walang tamang suportang tamang dokumento o papel," Dela Vega said.
But according to Athena Dans, chief of Manila International Container Port's Informal Entry Division, all the provisions under CMO 04-2017 are basic and similar to what is being practiced in other countries.
"That's a declaration. You are declaring what's inside the box. Basic naman yan sa customs all over the world. You have to declare what you are importing," Dans said.
She said such measure will help curb smuggling. "Kami sa Bureau of Customs, we have to protect government revenues, sila naman kasi negosyo yung sa kanila."
Dans assured OFWs that they have nothing to worry about if they would just follow the regulations in sending balikbayan boxes. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News