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Filipinos welcome suspension of balikbayan box rules

Philippine Bureau of Customs grants relief till March 31 following criticism

Image Credit: Gulf News File
Around 10,000 ‘balikbayan’ boxes are sent through dozens of freight-forwarding companies to the Philippines daily.
Gulf News

Dubai: Filipinos and freight forwarding companies in Dubai have welcomed the the Philippine government’s move to temporarily lift tighter cargo rules on balikbayan boxes (care packages) just in time for Christmas.

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have for decades been sending goods such as toys, clothes, chocolates, household items and appliances for personal use to their families back home. The goods are sent in a box popularly known as balikbayan boxes that are deemed duty-and tax-free if the total value does not exceed 150,000 pesos (Dh10,800).

The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BoC) on August 1 implemented new rules requiring balikbayan box senders to declare its contents in an information sheet, include their passport copy, and submit receipts of the goods.

The BoC last week suspended these rules till March 31, 2018, after the move was roundly criticised by overseas Filipinos.

Gxie Juson, a nurse who has been in Dubai for 11 years, praised the decision saying it will benefit many Filipinos, most of whom send the boxes for special occasions like Christmas.

“I’m very happy that they are now more lenient with the sending of the boxes because Christmas is almost here. My box is actually due for pick-up tonight,” Juson told Gulf News.

Juson sends around three balikbayan boxes a year containing toys and clothes for her two sons and household items.

Wayne Rodolfo, who works in the insurance sector, welcomed the move especially since he believes OFWs do not have to justify their purchases by sending receipts.

“If an OFW wants to send an item and he can afford it, why does the government have to limit him?” Rodolfo said. “I agree we have to give an inventory of the items in the box, but not with other rules.”

Freight forwarding companies said the lifting came at a good time. Efren Artillaga Jr, supervisor of Flomic Balikbayan Cargo, said business was down for the months of August and September when the tighter cargo rules were implemented. But sales are now beginning to pick-up.

“Our sales dropped 40-50 per cent in August and September, considering that August is supposedly a peak month. The stricter documentary requirements was the main complaint of our customers. But we are seeing more inquiries now,” Artillaga Jr said.

In the UAE, around 10,000 boxes are sent through 30 freight forwarding companies here to the Philippines daily, Artillaga said. Each box on average is worth Dh3,000, bringing the total value of goods to around Dh30 million daily.

Landerson Ramos Gozun, Marketing Team at Makati Express Cargo, agreed that the whole industry was affected in August and September.

“Customers were apprehensive about having to itemise the contents of their boxes as it could expose the boxes potential threats like some items being stolen, and the like,” Gozun said.

Gozun said their sales dropped to 40 per cent, but with the lifting of the rules, he is positive that they will reach their quota just in time for December.