Aquino eyes safeguards in BOC scrutiny of balikbayan boxes
CEBU CITY, Philippines — President Aquino has assured the public that necessary safeguards will be put in place amid public backlash on the new policy of the Bureau of Customs on “balikbayan” boxes.
He told reporters here on Monday that he would meet with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Customs Commissioner Albert Lina upon getting back to Manila from Cebu to review the policy.
“Iyong sa mamayang hapon, pipilitin nating ilagay lahat ng safeguards para walang abuso (During that meeting in the afternoon, we will insist on putting up safeguards to prevent abuse),” said President Aquino who was here on Monday to inspect a road project and to grace a Liberal Party event at the Cebu Coliseum.
He, however, maintained that the BOC was only doing its job to ensure that no contraband could enter the country.
“Pero palagay ko naman wala naman sigurong magmumungkahi na huwag na nating tingnan dahil trabaho ng Customs iyon na pangalagaan ‘yung inaangkat dito sa ating bansa (I think there is no suggestion that we should not look into the boxes at all because it is the job of Customs to ensure that what comes into the country is legal),” he said.
The President explained that the new BOC policy has been aimed at helping the campaign against illegal drugs and prevent the entry of guns, ammunition and even smuggled motorcycles.
“Meron pa raw nag-dismantle ng motorsiklo na ‘yung tinatawag nilang big bikes. Hinati-hati sa ilang kahon para makaiwas rin sa dapat na bayaran na multa (Some reportedly dismantled the motorcycles they call big bikes. They break them down into parts and place the parts in different boxes to avoid the payment of fines),” he said.
President Aquino said the BOC explained to him that X-ray machines would be used to examine the contents of balikbayan boxes.
The boxes will only be opened when the x-ray reveals something suspicious.
Mr. Aquino said independent observers might be tapped to remove suspicions of theft of some items inside the balikbayan boxes.
Senator Grace Poe, however, asked the BOC just to leave the balikbayan boxes of the Overseas Filipino Workers alone.
“Unang-una ito po’y nagbibigay ng P26-billion na pondo sa ating pamahalaan,” she told reporters at the University of San Carlos (USC).
She also pointed out that the BOC has not hired have enough personnel for the new task of opening up balikbayan boxes.
She added it would be better if the BOC would just purchase more x-ray equipment rather than open the boxes individually. Carmel Loise Matus and Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas
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