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Delays for Balikbayan Box

MANILA  The Bureau of Customs (BoC) warned of more delays in the release of Balikbayan boxes sent by family members and relatives residing or working abroad.

The BoC, responding to a clamor from lawmakers, is making X-ray examinations of Balikbayan boxes mandatory to curb smuggling.

“What is being implemented is more on the physical inspection with the Balikbayan boxes. But because of this development, I already issued an order that these should also undergo (X-ray) scanning procedures,” Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez said.

The clamp-down is widely seen as a fall-out from revelations by car dealer Allan Bigcas, suspected of smuggling luxury vehicles and guns, that he was able to bring “chop-chop” vehicle parts into the country via the Balikbayan box system.

Balikbayan boxes traces its roots to the Filipino culture of sending items, such as food, clothing, perfume, soaps, and other sundry items to their families here in the Philippines.

Alvarez said Customs inspects hundreds of thousands of Balikbayan boxes yearly, lumped in container vans. With the enormous volume of arrivals from different parts of the world, physical examination of the Balikbayan boxes contribute to the congestion at the ports, he added.

With the additional X-ray scanning, “we just have to improve the process of moving forward,” he said. Alvarez ruled out the purchase of more X-ray machines.

Around 25 luxury vehicles and expensive motorcycles were recovered from his residence in Bukidnon during a joint operation of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

During the congressional probe, Lourdes Mangaoang, Customs X-ray Inspection Project (XIP) head, said Balikbayan boxes are not scanned by their X-ray machines because these are categorized as Consolidated Shipments.

As such, it is classified as informal entry and is not covered by electronic selectivity system, she explained.

Filipinos abroad are worried that expensive items in Balikbayan boxes might be lost in the examinations.


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