by Cheryl Piccio ABS-CBN News
HOUSTON, TX — A new set of rules on Balikbayan boxes, the Philippines Customs Administrative Order, took effect on August 1.
The new law updates many of the provisions of the old Balikbayan box law, which removed customs duties on personal goods sent home by overseas Filipinos.
At least five million Filipinos abroad send shipments of durable and consumable goods to their families back home every year, according to the door-to-door Consolidators Association of the Philippines (DDCAP).
Mostly, these are contained in Balikbayan boxes, which are charged a fixed rate regardless of the weight of the contents, making them very affordable.
“It has always been a law, that everything you bring into our country, you have to declare. It is for the safety of our country. The only thing that has changed, is the number of documents we have to provide to our BOC,” said Joel Bamba, a regular Balikbayan box shipper.
Part of the attraction of the Balikbayan box is its economic value, as it allows for cheaper shipments of items versus sending them individually in smaller packages through the postal service.
But the updated regulation has senders concerned. The controversial regulation significantly increases the paperwork required.
Senders must now detail the contents of their packages using the revised five-page bureau of customs form. They must also provide itemized receipts for newly purchased items, with three copies of everything for each box.
Also, a printed copy of the sender’s passport must also be included with the paperwork, which is troubling for some senders.
“Some of our customers are having a hard time with that. Releasing their passport information to someone they have never met at the BOC,” said Bamba.
The BOC claims that the new rule is for the safety and welfare of Philippine citizens and helps ensure the valuables inside the package arrive safely to its destination.
But lack of accessible information regarding the new rules has many senders confused and agitated, and shipping providers are being forced into the role educating and pacifying the public.
“So mga kababayans ang advice ko lang po sa inyo is hwag po kayong mabahala dahil ito po ay para rin sa ikakabuti ng ating business. At ito ay konting additional paperwork lamang,” said Randy Datu.
“Safety lang. Kaya wala akong problema kung marami silang requirements. Paperwork lang naman eh. Hindi naman mahirap yon,” said Oliver Oconer.
International freight providers are concerned that the confusion around the new law will impact business. With a cascading effect on the related industries and workers that provide Balikbayan box services to the Philippines and the families that are waiting for them.