DESPITE President Benigno Aquino III's order putting a stop to Bureau of Customs' (BOC) arbitrary inspection of balikbayan boxes, a progressive group has declared August 28 as Zero Remittance Day to call on the government to retract the P600-million revenue target from balikbayan boxes.
The "Zero Remittance Day" aims to press the government to junk its P600-million revenue targets from balikbayan boxes of overseas Filipino workers, said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante party-list chairperson.
Regalado said OFWs, who sent $13.4 billion to the country for the first half of the year, remain suspicious toward the BOC saying it is afraid that other schemes may still be adopted by the agency in order to compensate for the annual revenue lost from balikbayan boxes amounting to P600 million.
"We are pleased that the President has spoken on the issue of random inspection of our balikbayan boxes… But all the beautiful words cannot hide the fact that the administration has imposed on BOC a P600-million revenue target from balikbayan boxes," Regalado said.
According to the BOC, it is losing about P600 million worth of revenue every year due to the technical smuggling being done through balikbayan boxes.
Regalado said the P600-million target is what emboldened BOC Commissioner Alberto Lina to implement the random inspections of balikbayan boxes.
"The statement of the Department of Finance (DOF), which oversees the BOC, is totally silent on the P600-million target. If this stays, we have every reason to believe that the 'seemingly reasonable' steps are nothing but damage-control aimed at dousing OFW and national protests," she said.
On Monday, Aquino ordered Lina not to push through with the planned random inspections on balikbayan boxes after it was met with an avalanche of opposition and objections from OFWs around the world.
Migrante, however, joined Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in expressing gratitude to Aquino for stopping the planned scheme.
"We are pleased that the President has spoken on the issue of random inspection of our balikbayan boxes. This is an initial victory for OFWs worldwide," the Migrante official said.
Baldoz, for her part, said, "I am happy that the President has resolved the issue in favor of the interest of OFWs."
Baldoz said it is only right for the BOC to drop such plans since balikbayan boxes cannot be considered as a commercial transaction but is a symbol of love and care of OFWs to their families at home. (HDT/Sunnex)