DUBAI Filling out a cargo with goods abroad is hard for some, but with new regulations, sending it will be more complicated as it will require more effort starting August 1.

IMG_20170725_095225Cargoes, often called as balikbayan boxes, is a carton shipped to the Philippines from another country by a Filipino who has been living overseas typically containing items such as food, clothing, toys and household products for their families back in the Philippines.

With the new rules set by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) recently, Filipinos in the UAE hailed and criticized it at the same time as some senders may expect delays and additional taxes.

As stipulated under BoC’s Memorandum Order 04-2017, all balikbayan box senders shall abide to a stricter set of rules.

According to the memorandum order uploaded to its website, senders should declare everything inside the box – from expensive to cheap items.

The sender shall fill out a form with an itemized description of goods that include quantities and actual or estimated value in Philippine peso.

In addition to this, Filipinos abroad who wish to send brand new items should provide receipts as proof of purchase. Failure to do this might be subjected to physical examination and extra charges.

“If the documents are incomplete, for example, there is no receipt, duties and taxes might apply,” James Ian de la Vega told GMA news.

Augusto “Marz” Marcial from Makati Express Cargo said that his Manila office did, in fact, receive the memo from the BOC with the new guidelines and said, “Generally, the ones who are directly affected are those who are sending commercial goods but have declared that they are personal effects to avoid customs duties,” he told Kabayan Weekly.

He mentioned that although the new move may not be agreeable for many, he said that he and his team are willing to cooperate with it.

Vega stressed that if the package is addressed to a non-member of the family, the parcel is immediately subjected to tariffs.

“If the box is addressed to a girlfriend, friend, or boyfriend, the balikbayan box’s tax-free [status] will not apply,” he said.

Last year, the Philippine government started to allow OFWs to send more items without paying taxes. Overseas Filipinos can send up to three PhP150,000-worth of tax and duty free balikbayan boxes within a year. Before this, the tax exemption ceiling for balikbayan boxes was only PhP10,000.

Filipinos welcome and criticize the new provisions

“I fully agree with the new rule on declaring all our goods when sending boxes to the Philippines. This is a way of protecting ourselves from the pilferage/stolen and issues we faced when sending boxes to our loved ones,” Dubai-based Johoney Avila said.

Avila, working as a logistics coordinator, said that declaring the goods is necessary.

“Why worry if this rule is to protect the OFWs? It’s time to educate ourselves and putting a system to all our balikbayan boxes is a thumbs up,” Avila said.

The Philippine government implemented this for fear that smugglers might take advantage of boxes to smuggle contraband into the Philippines.

Al Ain-based Mussolini Gonzales, meanwhile, said that he hasn’t tried sending cargo from here to the Philippines but he worries about showing the receipt.

“What if bigay lang yung items or regalo lang, tapos wala namang resibo?” Gonzales, who works at Al Ain Khaleej Hospital, said.

Mary Grace Ramos, 33, strongly agreed with the tightening which aims to protect and secure OFWs’ hard-earned money.

“Let’s cooperate for the progress of our country,” she said.

Supply Chain Executive Rudy Parilla, on the other hand, is not agreeable with listing the items inside the cargo.

“It’s a bit time consuming to provide a detailed list but if that will help in speeding up the process of clear[ing the package with] customs, or will be used to avoid/screen illegal activities and if this will help our economy, then I don’t mind. “I will abide and support this initiative,” Parilla expressed.

“To all my kababayans, we should help our government by following their new guidelines on sending balikbayan boxes for our families in the Philippines. This is one way to stop the smugglers from smuggling goods to our country,” Makati Express Cargo’s Marcial emphasized.

BoC’s Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon posted some clarifications on his official Facebook page:


1. Senders of balikbayan boxes don’t need to fill out an information sheet declaring all the contents in the box or produce a receipt, if they are willing to pay duties and taxes for the goods being shipped.

2. Contents in balikbayan boxes are exempt from taxes provided they don’t exceed more than PhP150,000 in total value.

3. Declaration of goods is important because it is for the “protection” of the sender, to ensure that the parcel gets delivered.

4. Receipts are not required for used items, groceries, “gifts” and other goods worth less than PhP10,000.

5. When filling out the declaration form or “information sheet,” there’s no need to be very precise with the costs. Estimates are fine. For example, if the t-shirt included in the box was originally purchased for P500 and has already been used, the sender can declare the price as P100.

6. Receipts are required for items that are brand new and worth more than P10,000 each.


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