MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Bert Lina insists that he is merely following the law by enforcing stricter inspections of the "balikbayan boxes" that are brought into the country.
In an interview with DZMM, Lina said it is part of his job to protect the country from smuggled goods such as illegal drugs and unregistered firearms.
"I have my duty to protect this country… Kung dumami ang droga dito, dumami ang mga baril, sisihin mo ako, 'di ba? 'Yun ang aking gagawin, I have to implement the law," Lina said on Sunday.
According to Lina, unscrupulous traders have been using balikbayan boxes to smuggle goods into the Philippines, something they discovered while conducting a spot check of boxes that contained "undervalued items" and "undeclared contests."
Lina also responded to the requests of overseas Filipino workers who have asked that their balikbayan boxes not be opened.
Lina clarified that they are only conducting random inspections, and thus not all boxes will be opened. Moreover, he pointed out that OFWs should have nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide.
"Kung hindi prohibited, bakit ka matatakot?" he said. "Kung iyan ay hindi dutiable, bakit ka matatakot?"
Lina also reminded OFWs that there are limitations to duties and tax-free balikbayan boxes that they send back home.
"Kung ang value ng goods ay P10,000, 'yun libre yun. Hindi ta-tax-an. In excess of P10,000 value, the Customs duties and taxes apply. 'Yun po ang ating batas," he explained.
Lina further advised OFWs to appeal to congressmen and senators to raise de minimus value of P10, since right now, any item that costs more than P10 is taxable and dutiable.
According to the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, the de minismus value of items can be raised so that a balikbayan box will no longer need to be taxed, Lina said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte on Sunday said President Benigno Aquino III will be informed of the OFWs' concerns.
"Marami na ho tayong mga nakuhang open letter, marami na po tayong nakuhang mga Facebook messages, mga email at basta binubuo po naming lahat ito at sinisigurado po naming makakarating ito sa Pangulong Aquino," Valte said in an interview on radio DZRB.