The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) and their rules on parcels and balikbayan boxes is still a mystery to some people. BOC’s rules and regulations can still get most people wondering and at times confused. Let us demystify and make it much simpler for you by answering frequently asked questions about the BOC.

What is The Philippine Bureau of Customs?

The Philippine Bureau of Customs is an agency under the Department of Finance that is tasked to assess and collect customs revenues, keep in check illegal trade and customs fraud, and use a customs management system to enable effective and efficient trading.

What are balikbayan boxes?

Balikbayan boxes are care packages sent by Filipinos from overseas to their loved ones back home. These shipping boxes can also be brought by overseas Filipinos returning to the Philippines by air or sea freight.

What are the items that are ALLOWED to be brought to the Philippines through balikbayan boxes, parcels, or passenger baggage?

Balikbayan boxes, parcels, and passenger baggage must only contain items for household and personal use.

Items that may be brought into the country without clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and only for personal use with the allowed quantity, include the following:

  • Toys (10 pieces), childcare items (5 kg), perfumes (5 bottles), shampoo (2 kg), lotion (2 kg), lipstick (10 pieces), lotion (2 kg), bars of soap (2 kg), assorted cosmetics (1 kg), hazardous household substance (5 kg), vitamins and health supplements for maintenance (total of 500 g), wines/liquor (2 bottles), and processed food (10 kg)

Keep in mind that when sending valuable new items (i.e. gadgets, jewelry etc.), these items should be declared and supported with a receipt. Used items and less valuable items (i.e. toiletries, chocolates etc.), on the other hand, do not require a receipt but need to be listed on the declaration form.

What items are NOT ALLOWED to be placed inside balikbayan boxes, parcels, and passenger baggage?
  • The following are commonly restricted items which are prohibited unless authorized by law or by a regulating agency: firearms & explosives, cement or asphalt, drug paraphernalia (unless prescribed for medical conditions), cheese, meat, fruits and vegetables (unless canned), used clothing of commercial quantity or in bulk like “ukay ukay”, perishable food items.

BOC advises senders of balikbayan boxes to strictly adhere to the rules to avoid hassle and delay of delivery.

Why do balikbayan boxes get delayed?
  • Contrary to what others may think, the BOC is not the only authority that is responsible for the delay of the delivery of balikbayan boxes. It would be helpful to understand the journey the balikbayan boxes go through.

Before the balikbayan box even makes its way to its intended destination, it goes through a process and it includes the freight forwarder to secure permits, accreditation, and other necessary documents. The issuance of these special permits may be the reason for the delay.

After the permits have been secured, the balikbayan box, then, gets delivered by the freight forwarder. When the box reaches the BOC, it will be inspected and assessed. This is done through x-ray scanning.

If the balikbayan box or package is considered as high-risk cargo, then a delay may happen. BOC inspectors will be permitted to open and inspect a balikbayan box or package if it gets suspected as containing restricted items.

Who are qualified to send tax-free balikbayan boxes or packages?
Who are the qualified to receive balikbayan boxes?
  • The recipient or recipients should be a relative of the sender up to the fourth degree of affinity to be qualified to receive balikbayan boxes.
What is the new policy in sending balikbayan boxes as per Bureau of Customs?
  • The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has toned down the guidelines for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) availing the duty-free and tax-free privileges for consolidated balikbayan boxes. The guidelines come in the form of the Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 18-2018, issued on October 11 and that which replaces CMO 04-2017.

The following are some of the things to keep in mind in reference to the new policy of the Bureau of Customs:

    • Aside from a copy of a Philippine passport, the BOC will now accept other documents as proof of Filipino citizenship. These are; a photocopy of the page of a Philippine passport with personal information, picture and signature; a photocopy of foreign passport in case of a dual Filipino citizen without a Philippine passport; a permanent resident ID; an Overseas Employment Certificate or Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) work permit; a Unified Government ID; and any other similar document with the exception of a birth certificate.
    • Only personal and household items are allowed to be sent through consolidated balikbayan boxes.
    • Qualified Filipinos are not required to submit commercial invoices of the goods contained in their balikbayan boxes, but they will be required to submit three copies of the information sheet with a list of items included in the box to the freight forwarders.
    • Penalties will be imposed to senders of balikbayan boxes and all other participants if they use the shipment as some sort of channel for smuggling according to Section 1401 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
    • Balikbayan boxes will not be opened for a physical examination if the boxes are marked as “no suspect” after mandatory inspection via X-ray.

With all these pertinent information about Filipinos sending balikbayan boxes or packages, we should already be aware of what or what not to do to avoid penalties or delays when it comes to the delivery of the shipment. When bringing balikbayan boxes to freight forwarders for shipping, make sure to only include personal and household effects and don’t forget to include an itemized list of the things that you will be sending. This will allow freight forwarders to provide you with a correct computation and to make sure that your items are safe, and in accordance with what is allowed to be included in the boxes. The bottom line is, we should make ourselves aware of the rules when shipping balikbayan boxes to avoid any kind of hassles.

If you have more inquiries about your balikbayan packages, give fastboxPh a call. We will be more than happy to assist you.

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