Are balikbayan boxes being held at Customs yet again?

Recent reports have surfaced stating that container vans are piling up once again at the Manila Customs Yard. They are allegedly being held indefinitely by officials under a new order supposedly handed down by the BOC (Bureau of Customs) stating that no containers should be released until new tax and duty increases are paid, according to an October 21 article published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

This AFP (Agence France Press) file photo shows piles of container vans and rows of waiting cargo trucks at the port of Manila.
This AFP (Agence France Press) file photo shows piles of container vans and rows of waiting for cargo trucks at the port of Manila.

The report further states that when freight forwarding companies and brokers ask for the official documentation explaining the new directive, officials merely state that the new orders were handed down “verbally.” Part of the verbal instructions supposedly even include physical inspection of boxes, which goes against the orders of the president himself.

Last August, after netizens expressed their outrage over exorbitant cargo fees and manual inspection of balikbayan boxes, President Benigno Aquino III had to intervene and ordered both Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Customs chief Bert Lina to stop the practice and only allow physical inspection if x-ray or K-9 inspection uncover something suspicious about the boxes.

It would seem the BOC was only waiting for the online outrage to die down before resuming questionable practices, and just in time for the -ber months, too, when more packages are expected to arrive in time for Christmas.

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