Bert Lina says sorry over balikbayan boxes

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 03 2015 10:49 PM | Updated as of Nov 17 2016 10:57 AM

MANILA - What overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families have been waiting for finally came straight from the mouth of Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Alberto Lina.

Lina's apology came during the Senate ways and means committee hearing on Customs' modernization plans as well as the controversial balikbayan box issue.

Lina earned the ire of OFWs and their families for the scrapped plan to open balikbayan boxes.

President Benigno Aquino III had to intervene and announced that the plan had to be cancelled.

"Ako'y nagso-sorry kung meron kaming natapakan diyan. Hindi naman kami nangtatapak ng mga OFW," said Lina during Thursday's hearing.

Lina also apologized and admitted it was poor judgment on the part of a Customs personnel to tax the championship belt of an athlete from Baguio.

(READ: Pinay fighter taxed for title belt; Lina defends fee)

But it was also revealed during the hearing that the BOC has increased the duties and taxes for container vans.

Senator Ralph Recto said this will mean OFWs will have to pay an additional P250 per box.

The Senate is also deliberating the tax exemption ceiling for balikbayan boxes which is currently pegged at P10,000.

"There are proposals to bring it up from the House of Representative to P150,000. The commissioner said P50,000 minimum is acceptable to them. At may proposal naman si Senator Recto na naglalaro sa P100,000 to P150,000. So I think in the end the committee will probably settle at P100,000," Senator Sonny Angara said.

Increasing the ceiling means OFWs can send more items without being taxed by the government.

The BOC cautioned the Senate that while they support OFW concerns, measures must be put in place against smugglers and unscrupulous businessmen.