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Senator Ralph Recto on Thursday questioned Thursday the additional charge the Bureau of Customs was imposing on containers of balikbayan boxes, saying this has led to the increase in fees being shouldered by overseas Filipino workers when sending the packages.
During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on the BOC's recently stopped random inspection of balikbayan boxes, Recto said the fee increase from P80,000 to P100,000 for every container would further be increased to P180,000 in October.
“Tinaasan yung parang buwis sa kada container... na P80,000, tapos ang balak daw ay by October this year ay gagawing P180,000 kada container. Alam naman natin pagdating ng 'ber months' dun na magpapadala yung mga kababayan natin so para bang tinatarget natin yung mga balikbayan natin,” he said.
He said the increase will eventually be shouldered by OFWs who send the boxes.
“[The] two increases will force OFWs to pay an additional P250 per box. Kung sino man ang magpapadala ng balikbayan box para sa Pasko, malamang maabutan na ito ng dagdag na singil,” he said.
Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina insisted that freight forwarders should shoulder the fees and not pass it on to OFWs and engaged Recto in a brief heated exchange during the committee hearing.
“Ako icha-challenge ko yung freight forwarders, galing ako dyan for the last 20 years. Kung anumang pagtaas na hinihingi ng gobyerno, hindi namin kinikuha sa balikbayan kundi sa freight forwarders,” Lina said.
“What I’m asking them is to give Juan what is due Juan. Alam ko kung ilan ang kinikita niyan. Humihingi lang ang gobyerno sa kanila ng additional na P80,000 o P100,000, kundi magbukasan tayo ng libro ng mga freight forwarders kung yun ang gusto nyo dito. Hindi ko naman hinihingi ito sa balikbayan,” he added.
Recto said it was the Bureau of Internal Revenue that should run after the freight forwarders.
Lina raised his voice and said: “Kaya nga po yun freight forwarders kasi sa kanila nakaconsign e, sila ang dapat magbayad hindi po yung balikbayan boxes at OFW.”
To which Recto said: “E, dun nga nila kokolektahin yun. Wag kayong magtataas ng boses dito.”
Lina said he was just trying to explain and Recto replied he was also explaining the effect of the additional fees.
Before emotions ran high, Lina and Deputy Commissioner Agaton Teodoro Uvero confirmed the imposition of additional fees.
“After meetings with consolidators and freight forwarders, yung mga galing sa US po from P80,000 naging P100,000. Dapat po may continuing consultation pero pumutok na po yung issue na ito,” Uvero said.
Recto said the issue on balikbayan boxes surfaced because of the Customs’ imposition of additional fees on containers.
Lina said they are just asking the freight forwarders to give the government what is due.
But Recto noted that there is no law providing for duties and taxes on containers depending on which country they came from.
He reiterated that it is the OFWs who will be affected by the fee increase, but Lina insisted that they are not targeting the Filipinos overseas.
Recto then asked the freight forwarders how they cover the cost of the additional fees of the Customs.
Joel Longares, president of Atlas Shippers International, admitted that they pass it on to the OFWs.
“Nagkaroon ng increase from P80,00 to P100,000, nag-increase nung August. Actually kliyente po namin (ang tatamaan dyan), which is yung OFW po, yung nagpapadala ng boxes,” he told the committee. —NB, GMA News