Press Release
August 26, 2015

Cayetano to BOC: Go after big time smugglers and leave OFWs alone

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said the Bureau of Custom's (BoC) earlier decision to implement stricter measures on migrant workers' packages was unwarranted, knowing it continues to turn a blind eye to big-time smugglers who continue to evade Customs rules and regulations.

"Our government lost more than 200 billion pesos due to smuggling in 2013," the senator stated.

"If BoC is serious in its campaign to stop smuggling, it should have considered requiring pre-shipment inspections of balikbayan packages instead of conducting random opening of balikbayan boxes," he added.

Cayetano proposed that this can be done by accredited cargo surveyors and is a better alternative because it will not only prevent smuggling and theft but will also help minimize corruption in the bureaucracy and speed up port processing.

"A senate hearing in May this year established that pre-shipment inspections can be required, but it is Customs that doesn't want it and would rather open balikbayan boxes. That I don't understand," he raised.

Cayetano further clarified that Customs officials can still open balikbayan boxes, but only if their X-ray machines and K-9 examination reveal something suspicious inside the packages.

"Hindi naman natin sinasabi na kapag balikbayan box, bawal mong buksan. Ang sinasabi natin, huwag kang magbukas nang hindi mo nakikita sa X-ray na may kataka-taka na nandoon," he noted.

Cayetano challenged Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina to run after the 'big fish' instead of imposing additional burden on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) with their random inspections. The senator said, at the same time, that the decision of President Aquino to stop BoC in its plan to open balikbayan boxes is timely and prudent.

Cayetano earlier filed a resolution seeking to conduct an inquiry into several unwarranted government policies that cause undue burden to OFWs, including BoC's directive to implement random searches of balikbayan boxes and packages, the time consuming process of securing Overseas Employment Certificates (OEC), and the shutdown of remittance firms in several developed countries, among others.

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