MANILA – “There are ways to catch the rat without burning the entire house down.”
Thus said Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto as he stressed that programs to find big-time smugglers are already funded under the Bureau of Customs’ operating budget this year.
In a statement released Sunday, Recto said that BOC officials will be grilled on the status of non-intrusive inspection techniques, which could detect contraband goods without opening the balikbayan boxes sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Recto chairs the Senate Finance Subcommittee reviewing the BOC budget.
The senator said that P298 million is allotted for the upkeep of 30 x-ray machines installed in the country‘s 10 biggest ports. The machines, which can scan one 40- and 20-foot shipping container in minutes, were acquired in 2006 at $2.5 million each through a loan from the Chinese government.
According to Recto, the x-ray program “was meant to do away with manual inspections kasi nga daw kapag ginamitan ng x-ray, parang see-thru na ang loob ng isang van.”
To remove the need to check parcels for dutiable goods, Recto also urged the government to triple to $1,500 the current allowed value of the contents of balikbayan box exempt from taxes.
He said the $500 allowed value of the contents of balikbayan boxes was set in 1990 — or 25 years ago — and hasn’t been changed since.
Recto said the value of contents of balikbayan boxes do not usually reach $1,000. “Kaya kung tataasan natin ang limit, wala nang motive na halughugin ‘yan,” he said.
Recto said raising the threshold of balikbayan box value is "a small thing compared to the P2.28 trillion that they sent back home last year."
“Ibalato na natin sa mga OFWs ang balikbayan boxes kasi ang pagpapadala n’yan sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay ay isang paraan para mabawasan nila ng konti ang kanilang kalungkutan,” he said.