By Mikhail Franz E. Flores, Senior Reporter

BoC to issue guidelines on balikbayan box inspection

Posted on August 29, 2015

THE BUREAU of Customs will publish next week clear guidelines on the inspection of balikbayan boxes, following criticism in social media of the agency’s decision to implement a nearly three-decade rule for the first time.

“Maybe by Tuesday or Wednesday, we will release this,” Customs Deputy Commissioner Arturo M. Lachica said in a chance interview.

“Broadly, there will be no physical examination,” Mr. Lachica said.

Under the draft guidelines, Mr. Lachica said all container vans that have balikbayan boxes will undergo x-ray inspection at the BoC. Those with suspected contraband will be subject to another round of x-ray examination.

If the BoC believes the shipment contains illegal imports, it will open the balikbayan box in the presence of a representative from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) representative or an officer of an OFW association.

In a statement released Monday night, the Department of Finance said President Benigno S.C. Aquino III ordered the mandatory x-ray and K-9 examination of all estimated 7.2 million boxes and 18,000 containers that arrive in the country’s ports every year.

Also, Mr. Aquino required the presence of an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) representative or an officer of an OFW association if a BoC examiner opens a balikbayan box suspected of containing smuggled and prohibited imports.


Meanwhile, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada has filed a resolution to institutionalize Mr. Aquino’s directive.

“[I]t is important that a clear-cut policy regarding ‘balikbayan boxes’ should be institutionalized, isolating it from any politically-driven decisions and making it consistent despite changing leaders,” Mr. Estrada said in a statement.

Senate Resolution 1549 aims to “establish the guidelines, procedures and practical policies in monitoring and screening the balikbayan boxes arriving in the country, and introduce possible amendments to the Tariff and Customs Code,” according to the statement.

Mr. Estrada’s resolution also “seeks to guide the BoC in identifying priority concerns and direct its limited resources towards the success of its anti-smuggling efforts and realization of its revenue collection targets.”

According to the senator, while the BoC has the power to scrutinize shipments, prevent smuggling, and control import and export cargoes, its move to open balikbayan boxes may lead to possible pilferage and is “simply unacceptable and distasteful.”

“The policy to be crafted should strike the best balance between the mandate of the BoC and the interest of all the stakeholders. But, one thing should be non-negotiable: Don’t subject balikbayan boxes which are products of OFWs’ blood, sweat and tears to unwarranted inspection and draconian procedures,” he said. -- with Elizabeth E. Escaño