One of the hottest topics in the Philippines recently is the declaration made by Bureau of Customs (BOC) which said opening balikbayan boxes should be made mandatory to conduct arbitrary inspections.
Understandably, OFWs across the globe and their families here in the country received the news with great negativity. Many of them said the balikbayan boxes should be left untouched and respected as it symbolizes the sacrifice of overseas workers.
Fortunately, a new bill in the senate has been filed in the hopes of implementing a “no opening” policy on these balikbayan boxes.
Authored by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, the bill seeks to prevent the so-called safety checks by opening the boxes. He said “the balikbayan box is an enduring testament of their sacrifice and hard work abroad in order to secure a better future for their families back home. It represents the love and care of OFWs for their families, who have to bear months or even years of separation from each other.”
According to the bill, inspections will only be done by BOC by using trained dogs, X-ray machines, and other approved means. Also mentioned in the bill is that the only exemption to these inspection restrictions is when the export declaration and packing list are not attached to a box. Additionally, suspicious boxes that have been reported to BOC should be checked to see if they possibly contain any prohibited items.
Reports have confirmed that around 400,000 balikbayan boxes are sent to the country monthly. On top of that, the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) added that there were about 1.832 million OFWs deployed to foreign countries last year.
Pimentel explained, “We cannot thus take for granted the crucial role played by our OFWs in helping sustain the continuous development of our country through the foreign currencies remitted to their families back home.”
Respecting the boxes, he said, are one of the ways we can acknowledge the sacrifices of these modern day heroes.