Press Release
August 23, 2015

Villar to BOC: Clarify directive to open balikbayan box

Sen. Cynthia Villar today urged the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to clarify the directive on the opening of balikbayan boxes sent by overseas Filipino workers.

"It was only yesterday when our OFWs complained about their boxes taking as much as six months before reaching their family when we had the problem of port congestion. Now, they have to deal with this unclear policy of opening and tampering with their boxes by the BOC," Villar said.

Villar said she has been getting complaints from OFWs who found the BOC directive puzzling.

BOC Comm. Alberto Lina said BOC is tightening its watch on balikbayan boxes reaching the country's ports, which also means actual opening of the boxes. Lina said spot checks on warehouses revealed balikbayan boxes containing items that could be used for commercial purposes.

"We should not let this practice by the unscrupulous few affect the privilege enjoyed by OFWs. Sending balikbayan boxes has been the tradition of Filipinos who want to stay connected to their loved ones. It is also a manifestation of the Filipino value of sharing their blessings," Villar said.

BOC claims that some P50 million are lost to technical smuggling and that OFWs may be abusing the balikbayan box privilege to send high-value items for commercial purposes.

"I understand the frustration of our kababayan abroad who lovingly prepared the box, many of them took a while before filling the box, only to be received by loved ones already open and tampered with. I am aware that BOC is allowed by law to open boxes but pilferage is something BOC cannot assure at the moment," she said.

Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said BOC should strengthen its drive against smuggling of agricultural products, especially in light of reports that smuggled carrots are now flooding the market.

"Before branding them as smugglers, maybe an information drive should be done to inform the OFWs that these are the rules that apply to sending balikbayan boxes. Freight forwaders should also make sure they are handling boxes containing only what has been declared," she added.

Some 400,000 balikbayan boxes reach the country every month, more during Christmas season.

Villar said she is prioritizing the passage of the bill that will declare smuggling of agricultural products as a non-bailable offense of economic sabotage at the Senate.

News Latest News Feed