What do the Balikbayan Box Inspections Mean for OFWs?

Recently, the Philippine government stated that Balikbayan Boxes are now subject to inspections under the Bureau of Customs (BOC). The contents of these boxes were previously un-taxed and since it contained gifts from Overseas Filipino Workers to their loved ones in the Philippines. Now that the boxes are subject to inspection due to recent smuggling issues regarding these boxes, what exactly would that mean for our OFWs?

Most Filipinos, both in the mainland and OFWs are against this law, since these boxes are not only boxes full of stuff, but are fruits of hard work and labor apart from family, and are material proof of the memory of their loved one(s) abroad. However, some people abuse this privilege granted to the Filipinos by shipping off high-end and illegal commodities through these giant gift boxes.

Most would stuff these commodities deep down the box, and around it, place small items legal to be transported to the Philippines and sent through forwarding businesses like Manila Forwarder. This would be done to escape taxes from the BOC, but is the very reason this law was passed. The Philippine Bureau of Customs have come across a number of cases wherein these “Balikbayan Boxes” contain smuggled appliances and many different goods illegally transported to citizens of the Philippines. An estimated 50 Million Pesos is lost because of this every year. Though the inspections seem very intrusive, the concept of the Balikbayan Box will still be observed by the BOC, as they will only inspect the Balikbayan Boxes which are not accompanied by an actual OFW coming home from overseas, thus the name “Balik-Bayan” which means “Coming Home” in Filipino.

Because of these privacy issues, Bitcoin may be used to instead send money directly through wallets, or due to Bitcoin’s volatility, through local remittance services like Rebit to allow loved ones and/or friends to purchase their needed commodities directly rather than to have it shipped from abroad, take weeks to arrive, torn open and possibly confiscated by the BOC instead.

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