Customs chief asked to justify hike in ‘balikbayan’ box duties
Two house representatives are asking Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina to justify the 125 percent hike in duties on balikbayan boxes it imposed last month.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said Lina should show some respect for Congress which is currently discussing the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) plan to raise the cost of shipping of balikbayan boxes—the gift boxes of Filipinos working abroad to their relatives here.
“Please respect Congress. There is a pending investigation here and he (Lina) dares to touch the rates opposed by Filipinos overseas,” said Colmenares.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said Lina should first justify the hike in duties on balikbayan boxes which he noted was widely derided by the public when it was announced in August along with the plan to conduct full inspections of these packages.
Lina initially increased duties on twenty-foot containers from P80,000 to P120,000 in August this year.
Lina further jacked up the duties to P180,000 last month, even after a controversy erupted over the balikbayan box inspection and duty hike.
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) groups complained that the hike in duties would unduly increase the cost of shipping balikbayan boxes to their loved ones. They also expressed apprehension over the plan of Lina to open the boxes as part of the BOC’s random inspections on top of x-ray inspections.
Some balikbayans complained that simple gifts like toiletries, clothes and food items disappeared from the boxes after physical inspection by customs personnel.
Stop random inspection
Lawmakers chided Lina for focusing his resources on balikbayan boxes instead of training his guns on big-time smugglers of rice, sugar, oil, luxury cars, meat and farm products.
On Aug. 24, the President reportedly told Lina to stop random physical inspection of balikbayan boxes.
Colmenares said the President should have not placed Lina in a conflict-of-interest situation considering that the BOC chief had business interests in cargo shipping. “He and his companies will benefit from these moves to clamp down on balikbayan boxes, ” said Neri.
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