Despite President Aquino’s order to the Bureau of Customs to stop inspections of balikbayan boxes, Sen. Ralph Recto said “outdated rules” on OFW-sent packages must be changed.
“The order of the President is very laudable and time-on-target,” Recto said.
“But what the OFWs want is not temporary relief but permanent protection against whimsical search and seizures of their padala,” Recto said.
Recto has filed Senate Bill (SB) 2913 or the Balikbayan Box Law (BBL) which would increase the tax-exempt value of the contents of a balikbayan box to $2,000 from the present $500.
Recto filed the BBL bill amid the order of Malacanang to stop the random inspection of balikbayan boxes after OFW groups and lawmakers criticized the move of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
By raising the tax-exempt ceiling, the “motive and the temptation” to open boxes sent by ordinary OFWs will be gone, Recto said.
The $2,000 cap per carton will be hard to breach, he said. “Halos lahat ng mga balikbayan boxes na padala ng mga OFWs ay hindi umaabot sa ganung halaga.”
“Ang $2,000 limit ang bakuna laban sa paghahalughog,” Recto said.
Recto said the BOC Memorandum Circular No. 7990, which pegs a maximum value of $500 per balikbayan box, is 25 years old and had been overtaken by foreign exchange upheavals and inflationary pressures.
He said after the new tax-exempt limit is adjusted to $2,000, the next mandatory revisit of such amount would take place every six years.
“We don’t have to wait for a quarter of century again to adjust the ceiling,” Recto said.
“The intent of this bill is to recognize the Philippine tradition and culture of promoting and preserving strong family ties as represented by a balikbayan box carefully loaded with goodies by our hardworking OFWs,” he emphasized.
Recto said that during the hearings on his bill the status of parcels mailed through the Post Office will also be reviewed.
One good suggestion is that the maximum ceiling per box be applied on mailed parcels as well, Recto said. “Halimbawa, isang sapatos para kay Junior na hindi nakalagay sa balikbayan box pero sa isang maliit na package lang, dapat iyan ay wag ng pag-initang buwisan ng mga taga Customs.”
Under Recto’s BBL, the Department of Finance, Bureau of Internal Revenue and the BOC shall come up with the implementing rules and regulations of the law.
“This is one ‘BBL’ that appeals to both Muslims and Christians alike,” Recto said.