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PNoy stops Customs inspections of balikbayan boxes

President Benigno Aquino III has given instructions for the Bureau of Customs to stop the physical inspections of balikbayan boxes unless X-ray and K-9 examinations give rise to suspicions that they contain prohibited items.

The decision came after Aquino met with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Bureau of Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina on Monday afternoon.

"Kung merong derogatory findings tsaka lang bubuksan. Iyan ang naging payo ng ating Pangulo at naging desisyon ni Secretary Purisima," Lina said in an interview in GMA News TV's State of the Nation with Jessica Soho. 
If Customs will conduct a physical inspection, Aquino said that it should request that an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) representative or a designated officer of an OFW Association be present with provisions for CCTV monitoring of the inspection areas.
Employees who violate the protocols and engage in pilferage will be prosecuted and punished, according to Aquino's instructions. He also encouraged the public to submit videos and photographic evidence of illegal acts to Lina.
The DOF said that there is an estimated 1,500 containers of balikbayan boxes coming through Customs a month, translating to around 18,000 containers a year or around 7.2 million boxes. 

In a statement, the DOF said that all containers of balikbayan boxes will undergo mandatory X-ray and K-9 examination — at no cost to the sender or the overseas Filipino workers.

Customs will only conduct a physical inspection of goods if there are derogatory findings from the X-ray or K-9 examination.

According to the statement, Aquino emphasized that OFW families view the balikbayan box as an integral part of the family relationship to nurture loved ones at home, a "tangible sign of their love and concern for their family members."

Earlier, OFWs took to social media to criticize the BOC's more stringent implementation of the balikbayan box inspections.


Lina said the government may have had a "change of heart" for the sake of the OFWs, but he stressed that his agency will continue chasing after smugglers. 
"Maaaring lumambot kami alang-alang sa OFW pero hindi nawala ang ating gagawin bilang commissioner ng Customs kasi meron din tayong law to protect the country," Lina said. 
In its statement, the DOF noted instances when unscrupulous individuals used balikbayan boxes to break the law.
Gun parts, ammunition and gun accessories were found in seven balikbayan boxes, while 81,529 tablets of anti-anxiety drugs were misdeclared as food supplements in November 2014. Some 413 Casio G-Shock watches and even a custom Harley Davidson Chopper motorcycle of a Hollywood scriptwriter in 2011, among other high end car parts, were also delivered through balikbayan boxes. 
Lina earlier claimed that the country loses P50 million in revenues a month due to technical smuggling through the balikbayan boxes. —Trisha Macas/NB/JST, GMA News