Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto is set to file a BBL – or Balikbayan Box Law – that will raise the tax-exempt value of the contents of a balikbayan box to $2,000 from the present $500.
“If the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is insisting that it is just implementing existing rules on the matter, then we might as well change the rules,” Recto said.
Recto was referring to BOC Memorandum Circular No. 7990, which pegs a maximum value of $500 per balikbayan box shipped by a Filipino national to the Philippines.
Recto said the Customs order was issued in 1990, “making it a 25-year-old order which needs to be updated.”
He said a “new tariff-free ceiling is in order to reflect the rise in inflation, adjust to the escalation of the peso-dollar exchange rate and the purchasing power of the peso over the last quarter of a century.”
One provision in the bill is to index the maximum value per box every six years, Recto said.
“Ibig sabihin, kada anim na taon, automatic ang adjustment ng rate. Hindi na maghihintay ng isang henerasyon para baguhin ito,” Recto said.
To capture good inputs, Recto proposed that “the Senate should crowdsource ideas from all stakeholders including the Bureau of Customs.”
“The BOC has been saying that it is plagued by equipment lack like x-rays which could render the physical opening of boxes unnecessary. If that’s the case, then they should report what they need,” Recto said.
He said another “gray area of legislation is the absence of criminal and administrative penalties on those who pilfer the contents of parcels or wittingly cause the delay of their release of delivery.”
“Kung palpak ang courier service, ano ang penalty? Blacklisting lang ba?” Recto asked.
He said current protocols on how OFW-sent parcels are processed in Post Offices should be reviewed.
“Marami ring reklamo dito. Maybe we should improve customer care system in these places,” he said.
According to Recto, hiking the maximum allowable value of a balikbayan box would remove the motive to check shipped or mailed parcels for dutiable goods.
“Hindi naman umaabot ng $1,000 ang nilalagay sa box ng mga OFW natin, kasi mga sabon lang ‘yan at ibang mga anik-anik. Kaya kung tataasan natin ang limit, wala nang motive na halughugin ‘yan,” he said.
Recto reiterated that raising the threshold of balikbayan box value is nothing compared to the P2.28 trillion in remittances sent last year.
“Ibalato na natin sa mga OFWs ang balikbayan boxes kasi ang pagpapadala n’yan sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay ay isang paraan para mabawasan nila ng konti ang kanilang kalungkutan,” he said.