MANILA, Philippines – Customs inspectors who flag suspicious packages are not allowed to open them for examination until the receiver or his or her duly authorized representative is present.
This is according to a memorandum issued by the Bureau of Customs on Friday, December 23. (READ: 'Things to know about balikbayan boxes')
Meanwhile, balikbayan boxes containing contrabands or items that are possible threats to national security – such as explosives, firearms, and illegal drugs – will be opened only upon the written approval by the district collector of the port concerned.
The changes, according to the BOC, are intended to avoid cases of illegal smuggling through balikbayan boxes.
An average of 1,000 containers of balikbayan boxes arrive in Philippine ports every month, and the government loses at least P50 million in revenue due to smuggling.
Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon also reminded the public not to abuse balikbayan box privileges.
"Pabayaan 'nyo na ang balikbayan boxes. Privilege ito ng OFWs, maganda ito para sa kanila. ‘Wag sanang bastusin ang batas," Commissioner Faeldon warns possible offenders. (Leave the balikbayan boxes alone. They are a privilege accorded to OFWs and it’s good for them. Do not disrespect the law.)
Before this latest memorandum, customs examiners were only allowed to open and inspect suspicious boxes in the presence of a representative from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), a designated officer of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) association, apprehending officers, and the freight forwarder consolidator. (READ: 'Delayed balikbayan box delivery? Here are the possible causes') – Rappler.com