Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. scored the Bureau of Customs for using its bureaucratic might against overseas Filipino workers sending personal effects to their families through “balikbayan” boxes in the guise of an anti-smuggling campaign.
The Nacionalista Party stalwart said that the origin of the balikbayan box can be traced to the time of President Ferdinand Marcos when Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines was amended to provide duty and tax-free privileges to overseas Filipino workers so they can send personal effects including gift items to their families.
Marcos said: “To the BoC, I ask: Have you no shame? For every OFW, a balikbayan box is the equivalent of his or her love letter to a spouse and the rest of the family. Every item inside that box was bought with a specific person and purpose in mind, bought for with the hard-earned money of our modern-day heroes. So if a single item there gets lost, can you imagine how that feels to an OFW who invested so much emotion and money just to get those goods home?”
The legislator from Ilocos Norte and Leyte warned Bureau of Customs commissioner Albert Lina against carrying out further restrictions on the use of balikbayan boxes by the OFWs including a plan to impose taxes or additional fees on forwarding costs for OFW boxes.
“Mr. Lina, you are a public servant. It is your duty to consult with stakeholders first, before embarking on any draconian measure that would turn their lives upside-down. You seem bent on bullying our OFWs while turning a blind eye on the large-scale smuggling that goes on in nearly all ports across the archipelago.” Senator Marcos said.
The lawmaker also challenged the BoC to justify its move to open balikbayan boxes at random before the Senate during its forthcoming budget hearings. “Let them defend themselves during the budget deliberations. Specifically, I would like to know how many bigtime smugglers have they managed to put behind bars during the five years under this administration.”
Marcos also cited the need to investigate the perennial shortfalls in the collections of the BoC. “Are they planning to impose taxes on balikbayan boxes to make up for their annual collection deficit? In bullying our OFWs, they managed to expose their own internal deficiencies. Ayusin muna nila ang bakuran nila dahil mas nakakapinsala ang korapsyon sa loob ng BoC kesa sa mga balikbayan boxes na pinapadala ng mga lehitimong OFWs.”