New balikbayan box rules deferred

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OFWs pack balikbayan boxes In Central to be sent to their family in the Philippines (file photo).

THE Bureau of Customs has suspended its requirement for overseas Filipino workers to submit a proof of purchase for items inside their balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines.

The bureau suspended two Customs orders – one requiring balikbayan box senders to submit a photocopy of their Philippine passport to avail of the government’s tax exemption and another requiring copies of the invoice, receipt, or proof of payments of the goods contained in the box – until March 31, 2018.

“The BOC has temporarily suspended the guidelines in the implementation of the duty and tax-free privilege of consolidated balikbayan boxes, following the upsurge of criticisms among overseas Filipino workers,” the bureau said.

Previously, both requirements were not needed for OFWs to qualify for the tax exemption as long as shipments did not exceed P150,000 in value.

“Although it is our duty to facilitate customs clearance of balikbayan boxes, we cannot set aside the sentiments of our fellow Filipinos abroad. With the suspension of the current procedure on balikbayan box, the previous regulation will be enforced,” Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said.

For his part, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who was first to object to the tedious requirements imposed by the BOC, hailed the decision of the bureau to freeze the two orders.

When the now recalled guidelines first came out in July, Recto warned that BOC’s order for senders to paste a list of contents on the box “was tantamount to providing a keyhole that might tempt unscrupulous handlers to open it and rid it of its contents.”

“If the list is so itemized, that is like saying ‘Open me, I’m yours,’ I concede that there must be rules, but not so complicated that the box ends up being wrapped in red tape,” he said.

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