De Lima tells BOC: No need to harass OFWs on their balikbayan boxes
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Monday the Bureau of Customs should be “circumspect” in its announced plans to subject overseas Filipino workers’ “balikbayan” boxes to more intensive inspection than before.
In a statement, De Lima acknowledged the power of the BOC — the guardians of the country’s trading gates — to inspect and apprehend contraband or illegal and prohibited goods upon their entry in Philippine ports. “Thus, the discretion largely rests upon them and the Department of Finance. But again, they should be circumspect so as not to antagonize the feelings of our OFW countrymen and their families since the OFWs have already been used to this traditional practice of minimal BOC scrutiny on personal imported packages so long as these were not in commercial quantities,” she said.
The BOC, she added, “must point out to a change in circumstance that now demands a change in the policy, otherwise the same may appear arbitrary in light of the accustomed minimal inspection the OFWs have already been used to.”
The bureau’s plans, announced last week by Customs Commissioner Albert Lina, drew widespread protests from the migrant workers’ sector. Several lawmakers have denounced the BOC and called on the agency to back off its plans.
The Secretary called on the BOC to explore other methods, such as merely subjecting random or suspect packages to X-ray, instead of opening each and every box.
“There are practical ways to approach this matter and achieving any objectives the BOC wants without subjecting our countrymen to further inconvenience. We should leave that for the DOF and the BOC to deliberate and decide upon,” she said.
“But in so far as the law is concerned, they are authorized under the customs code to conduct such inspections. It’s just a matter of not making it inconvenient to both the sender and recipient of the balikbayan box,” De Lima added. Jerome Aning, Philippine Daily Inquirer
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