But vows 'safeguards' to prevent abuse by Customs
CEBU CITY - President Aquino is meeting with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Bureau of Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina in Malacañang Monday afternoon to "review" and to be briefed about the Customs' move to step up its inspection of balikbayan boxes.
Aquino did not object to the policy but gave the assurance that "safeguards" would be put in place to prevent abuse.
"Mamayang hapon pipilitin nating ilagay lahat ng safeguards para walang abuso. Pero palagay ko naman, wala naman sigurong magmumungkahi na huwag na nating tingnan dahil trabaho ng Customs iyon na pangalagaan 'yung inaangkat dito sa ating bansa. Wala naman sigurong nagsasabing 'sige basta 'pag balikbayan box e pwedeng nang maipuslit 'yung droga, pwedeng nang mailabas 'yung bala, pulbura, piyesa ng baril, 'yung baril mismo.' Baka naman totoo nga 'yung pati 'yung motorsiklong nahanap, ayaw naman nating pumasok 'yon."
"Tulungan natin 'yung Customs na gawin 'yung kanilang trabaho at siguraduhing--dapat naman raw siguraduhin ng gobyerno na wala namang… karapatan ang taumbayan na mapipinsala dito sa paghahabol ng pangangalaga ng kapakanan ng lahat."
Aquino spoke of the need to implement the inspection, citing the Custom's campaign to curb smuggling of drugs, ammunition, parts of motorbikes, and other items to escape the payment of proper duties.
"Ang pangunahing layunin nito ay makatulong doon sa kampanya natin laban sa mga illegal na droga. Tapos marami na rin tayong balita na nagpupuslit ng bala, mga baril. Meron pa raw nag-dismantle ng motorsiklo na 'yung tinatawag nilang big bikes. Hinati-hati sa ilang kahon para makaiwas rin sa dapat na bayaran na multa," he said.
Quoting Purisima and Lina, Aquino said only suspicious packages would be opened, and that "independent observers" would be on hand during the inspection to address suspicions of abuse by Customs employees.
"Ang paliwanag nila sa akin, X-ray raw ho ang gagamitin sa pagsiyasat nitong mga balikbayan box at pagkatapos 'non 'yung may mga kahinahinalang mapapakita 'nung X-ray, 'yon lang ang bubuksan ng pisikal. Tapos idinagdag na magkakaroon tayo ng mga independent na observers sa Customs para bantayan 'yung proseso para matanggal 'yung agam-agam ng pagnanakaw," he said.
Purisima and Lina are set to provide Aquino a more "comprehensive" briefing about the agency's objectives.
Lina has defended the Customs plan to randomly inspect balikbayan boxes entering the country, saying the agency is determined to stop the entry of contraband items.
The Customs chief noted that by definition, balikbayan boxes are packages brought by overseas Filipinos returning to the Philippines. On the other hand, "balikbayan boxes" sent by Filipinos who are not returning to the country should be considered "shopping boxes."
He said overseas Filipinos returning to the country are given tax exemptions for items with value of up to P10,000, based on a presidential decree issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Every item sent via padala package is taxable, he added.
"[If you live abroad], you can bring anything but you will be taxed. There is no exemption. If you are a balikbayan with the intention of coming back to our country, with your passport and everything, like people who have studied abroad or returning OFWs, these are the only people given the privilege to bring in goods and that will not be taxed if the value of the goods is P10,000 and below," he said.
Lina said items sent via balikbayan box or padala package will need to be assessed for duties and value-added tax. He said Customs inspectors need to open the boxes to check the items unless there is a packing list and invoice attached to the box.
"The duty is 1 percent and VAT is 12 percent. The duty can go higher to 3 percent, 5 percent or 10 percent, depending on the item that you are bringing into this country," he said.
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