President Benigno Aquino III has instructed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to stop the physical inspections of balikbayan boxes unless X-Ray and K-9 examinations give suspicions that the boxes contain prohibited items.
Aquino made the decision after he met with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and BOC Commissioner Alberto Lina on August 24.
Aquino said that if BOC will conduct a physical inspection, it should request the presence of an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) officer 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 steal items in the box will be prosecuted and punished. He also encouraged the public to submit videos and photographic evidence of illegal activities to Lina.
The DOF said there is an estimated 1,500 containers of balikbayan boxes coming through Customers per month, which translates to 18,000 containers a year or around 7.2 million boxes. They said all balikbayan boxes will undergo a mandatory X-Ray and K-9 examination, at no cost to the sender.
The balikbayan boxes will only be opened if it is suspected to contain illegal items.