Press Release
September 4, 2015


Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano castigated the Bureau of Customs (BoC) anew for attempting to harass overseas Filipino workers and returning citizens, invoking rules that not only discriminate against them but impose additional burden on them.

"Importante na ang ipakita natin sa ating mga kababayan, hindi lang sa rule of law o taxation, kundi pati sa compassion para sa ating OFWs. We have 10.23 million OFWs. Each of them, ayaw iwanan ang kanilang pamilya, pero walang choice dahil walang trabaho sa Pilipinas. The mere fact na hiwalay sila sa pamilya nila is enough sacrifice," Cayetano lamented during the Senate joint committee inquiry into the BoC's earlier regulation to randomly open OFWs' balikbayan boxes.

Cayetano, questioned the agency's decision to collect taxes on personal effects being sent by migrant workers to their families in the country, stressing that by law, such items are supposed to be duty and tax-free.

The country's Tariff and Customs Law states that personal and household effects belonging to Filipinos returning from abroad are exempted from the payment of import duties, provided that such items are neither be in commercial quantities or intended for barter or sale.

"Kapag nakita sa X-ray na hindi naman commercial quantity [ang ipinadala sa balikbayan boxes], huwag nang pakikialaman," Cayetano stressed.

He also cited the case of Jujeath Nagoawa, a Filipina boxer and WIBA International Flyweight Champion, who was apparently forced by the BoC to shell out almost P6,000 worth of dutiable value just to be able to bring home and keep her championship belt. It reportedly had to take a public outcry for the BOC to return the paid tax.

"Hindi po ba, ang trophy at ang belt, ay personal effects... Ang pagka-intindi ko sa batas, personal effects ito. Award niya ito... Sa ilalim ng batas, defined naman ang personal effects," Cayetano said.

The senator reiterated his challenge to Customs officials to focus on going after big-time smugglers and inspecting containerized vans, where most smuggled items are found, instead of heavily regulating packages from ordinary migrant workers who sacrifice a lot to provide their families' needs.

"Isa lang ang tanong ng mga kababayan nating OFW. Bakit hindi big-time smugglers ang habulin. A one-percent increase in BoC's tax effort will result in P3.8 billion additional revenues, way over the alleged P600 million na sinasabing nawawala sa balikbayan boxes... bakit willing tayo i-inspect ang balikbayan boxes, but ayaw natin ipre-inspect ang containerized cargos mula sa ibang bansa," he averred.

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