Balikbayan box senders warned vs. 16 forwarders

ABANDONED. Bureau of Customs personnel check out balikbayan boxes abandoned by forwarders in Luzon in 2022. / BUREAU OF CUSTOMS FB PAGE
ABANDONED. Bureau of Customs personnel check out balikbayan boxes abandoned by forwarders in Luzon in 2022. / BUREAU OF CUSTOMS FB PAGE

THE Bureau of Customs has warned the public to exercise caution when dealing with 16 forwarding companies that had been reported for incidents of abandoned balikbayan boxes.

The bureau warned Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, that nine foreign forwarders/consolidators had derogatory reports against them due to incidents of abandonment.

On its Facebook account, the BOC posted the names of these firms: Kabayan Island Express Cargo, Allwin Cargo LLC, Manila Cargo, Mediacom Express Cargo, Pinoy Network Cargo WLL, GM Multi services Cargo, Sel Air Cargo, Sky Freight and CMS General Services FZC LLC.

The bureau also said there had been reports of abandoned balikbayan boxes against seven local forwarders/deconsolidators. These are FBV Forwarders and Logistics Inc., Cargoflex Haulers Corp., Rensworld Freight Logistics Corp., CMG International Movers, Etmar International Logistics, KC Door to Door Delivery Services, and FGTI Forwarding Services.

The BOC advised the public to protect their balikbayan boxes by choosing only reputable forwarding companies accredited by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Last August, BOC officials led by Acting Deputy Commissioner Michael Fermin of the International Administration Group met with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission Undersecretary Gilberto DC Cruz to discuss the issue of forwarders abroad victimizing overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines.

The bureau then voiced plans to draft a memorandum order requiring the registration of deconsolidators with the BOC, along with the payment of a P2 million performance bond, to ensure accountability in the handling of balikbayan boxes.

The BOC officials also reported filing 11 criminal complaints against unscrupulous forwarders to protect the interests of OFWs. The outcome of the filing of the complaints, however, is unknown.

Two months later, in October, after the bureau distributed to their claimants in Manila, 87 balikbayan boxes sent by OFWs from the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Europe and the Middle East, that had been abandoned by forwarding companies, it revealed that enticed by the lower shipping fees offered, OFWs had paid fees to overseas forwarders for shipping their boxes to their families.

But the low fees meant that either there was no counterpart local deconsolidator to facilitate the clearance and delivery of the boxes to their beneficiaries, or the local forwarders were not compensated, leading to the non-declaration and non-payment of duties and taxes, and the subsequent abandonment of the boxes.

According to Customs Administrative Order 01-2018, while abroad, qualified Filipinos, which includes non-resident Filipinos, OFWs and resident Filipinos, may send balikbayan boxes to their families or relatives in the Philippines.

They may do so up to three times in a calendar year without paying duties and taxes if the box contains only personal and household effects; these are not in commercial quantities or intended for barter, sale or hire; and their value does not exceed P150,000 per sender in any calendar year.

CAO 01-2018 defines a balikbayan box as “a corrugated box or other container or receptacle up to a maximum volume of 200,000 gross cubic centimeters without regard as to the shape of the container or receptacle.”

It defines non-resident Filipinos as Filipinos who have established permanent residency abroad but have retained Filipino citizenship, while it defines resident Filipinos as resident Filipino citizens temporarily staying abroad, including holders of student, investor, tourist and similar visas.

OFWs are Filipinos working in a foreign country under employment contracts, who hold a valid passport issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and certified by the Department of Labor and Employment or the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for overseas employment purposes.

The BOC reminds senders to declare the correct items and value to avoid incurring penalties.


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