CLARK FREEPORT -- A Korean national has assailed Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel at Clark International Airport for their alleged rude behavior.
The complaint of Woo Seonkyung, which was posted on her Facebook account, stemmed from her experience with BOC Clark officers who ordered her to pay for US$137 or P6,941 as tax for items worth US$677 she bought from a duty free shop at Incheon Airport, South Korea.
In her Facebook post written in Korean and translated to English, Seonkyung claimed that upon arriving at Clark at around 10 p.m. on February 12, she was asked by BOC personnel to open her luggage including food sealed inside an ice box and the duty free items.
“Actually, I can hardly speak English. This article is based on the application of a translator. After explanation, we were taken to a small office next door. They (Customs personnel) kept talking to me in incomprehensible English,” she said.
Seonkyung added that she heard the Customs personnel say “pay the tax” of US$137 which they wrote on a piece of paper.
She apparently admitted refusing to pay the tax claiming that it is more expensive than what she paid at the department store in Korea.
“I did not get it and I said it was for me to use and I wanted to give it back to my friends in Korea.”
At this point in time, she claimed that BOC personnel started yelling at her and her husband.
“The representative (BOC men) told me ‘I can’t trust you’ and asked for my husband’s brother and [Filipina] wife to call us outside the airport. Because we are not good in English, they refused and I could not use the translator on the phone,” Seonkyung said.
“Then they yelled at us and brought in a sign about the Customs and put it down in front of us with a bang. And new people with radios also joined yelling out ‘go back Korea’ to us,” she added.
Seonkyung’s brother in law, who was waiting outside the airport terminal with his Filipina wife, offered to pay for the tax but failed after BOC officials informed them to return the following day to get the items which include bags, cosmetics and others.
Maritess Martin, BOC Port of Clark district collector, denied the Korean’s allegations saying that their personnel are oriented to be courteous to passengers.
“We denied that kasi we constantly remind our people to be courteous enough to explain to the passengers what they have to settle or if they committed violations and what Customs policies are,” Martin said.
“Makatao naman po kami at hindi naman kami bastos sa mga pasahero (We are polite and humane and not rude to passengers),” she added.
As a matter of procedure, Seonkyung has to pass through the Customs arrival area to allow BOC personnel determine if there are taxable items to be paid.
Customs Examiner Ramon Mindanao explained to Seonkyung that it is part of the mandate of the BOC to impose duties on imported goods unless they are duty free.
The value of the bag and cosmetic products exceeded the P10,000 limit that entitles the Korean tourist a de minimis importation, where duties and taxes is not imposed on imported goods, according to Martin.
“If they are willing to pay, they should have handed the payment to airport authorities and send it to the passenger,” Martin said.
Seonkyung also claimed that her husband nearly lost his electronic cigarette and watch worth P70,000 at Clark airport before returning to Korea.
But Clark International Airport Acting President Alexander Cauguiran showed to newsmen CCTV footages showing that a personnel of the Office for Transportation Security returning the watch to Seonkyung’s husband.
The CCTV clips also showed that no e cigarette was seen when the couple passed through the airport’s X-ray machine.