BOC to inspect balikbayan boxes with X-ray machines and K-9
MANILA – After the massive public outrage and the potential political fallout it could cost to the ruling Liberal Party, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) said it would use X-Ray machines and K-9 units in inspecting balikbayan boxes instead of conducting random physical inspections.
In a statement a day after President Aquino ordered an end to the physical inspections of balikbayan boxes, Customs chief Bert Lina said the bureau will now only use mandatory X-Ray examination of containers of consolidated shipments of balikbayans ”at no cost to the sender or OFW.”
“Moving forward, we will seek the help of our freight forwarder companies to install their own X-ray machines in their warehouses following specifications that Customs will require to expedite clearance of our OFW’s balikbayan boxes, while at the same time protecting our borders from contraband and smuggled items,” Lina said.
‘Lina added the BoC is always looking at acquiring K-9 units and additional CCTV cameras for the country’s ports through an emergency procurement.
The BoC drew flak from the public after it announced that more stringent measures will be enforced against smuggling activities involving balikbayan boxes.
The plan did not sit well with many OFWs and politicians, who told the bureau to instead focus on big-time smugglers and not target hard-working Filipinos abroad. Most of the concerns centered on the possible pilferage of the goods they sent back home.
Even before the balikbayan box debacle, the BoC has long been suffering from images of corruption and sheer inefficiency.
Lina said the public may report Customs employees who commit unauthorized physical inspections of balikbayan boxes to email@example.com. He said it would be helpful if the report is accompanied with the necessary details such as photos and videos.
Lina also urged lawmakers to prioritize the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) ”so we can harmonize, modernize and simplify our Customs procedures, superseding policies and procedures that have not been updated as far back as 1957.”
According to Lina, the bureau has been pushing for the increase of the de minimis value, or the threshold value for taxable imported goods, from the current P10 in duties, taxes and charges.
Senator Bam Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, said currently, the Philippines has the lowest de minimis threshold in the ASEAN, at P10 or $0.23.
The ASEAN average threshold is at a hundred dollars, Aquino said.
Source: ABS-CBN News, PH