OFW loses P20,000 worth of gifts in tampered balikbayan box

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from the Middle East told CNN Philippines on Sunday (December 20) that one of the five balikbayan boxes she had sent to the country through air cargo had been tampered with.

"The seal I made in the box was broken.  And when I opened the box, all the signature perfumes were gone," she said.

The OFW, who wishes to keep her identity anonymous, said that she would always send cargo boxes and other pasalubong (homecoming gifts) in advance before coming home for Christmas.

She enumerated that the lost perfumes and bottles of body lotion consisted of brands such as Victoria's Secret, Clinique, Bvlgari, and Lacoste all meant to be her pasalubong and Christmas gifts to her sisters, nieces, and nephews.

"All the other boxes were good," she said. "But those little items — I bought those little by little, one by one — [they were] supposed to be my Christmas gift[s] for my family."

She added that all the perfumes and body lotions were authentic. She estimated that the lost items were worth about P20,000.

However, she said that she did not intend to have her case investigated and only wished that the Bureau of Customs (BoC) would do something and prevent such things from happening.

"I went here to have a good time with my family this holiday season," she said. "I don't intend to drag the issue. I am disappointed, but I decided not to dwell on that. Iniisip ko na lang, I made the family of those who stole from me happy this Christmas. Konsensya nalang nya yun." she said. "I wish it won't happen again."

OFW group Samahang Pilipino in Afghanistan estimates that over 100,000 OFWs have arrived and are still coming home to spend Christmas with their loved ones.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminals 1,2, and 3 are coping with arrivals with thousands of passengers each day.

Also read: Customs' Christmas gift for OFWs: Duties, taxes relaxed

BoC: Balikbayan boxes are not subject to physical examination

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Bureau of Customs (BoC) Deputy Commissioner Arturo Lachica emphasized that balikbayan boxes would not be subjected to physical examination

"We also made it very clear," he said. "Kasi ang reklamo sa Bureau of Customs, ini-inspect ng physical examination ang mga balikbayan boxes. Maliwanag po yun ayon sa directive ng ating Presidente, we should not physically examine the balikbayan boxes."

[Translation: "We made it very clear. Some complain that Bureau of Customs inspect and physically examine balikbayan boxes. The President's directive was clear, we should not physically examine balikbayan boxes."]

Lachica clarified, however, that the bureau would still inspect consolidated cargoes and look for commercial goods hidden in the guise of balikbayan boxes.

"Yung obvious na balikbayan boxes na coming from mga totoong balikbayan, hindi na namin pinapakialaman yun," Lachica said.

[Translation: "Those balikbayan boxes that obviously belong to real balikbayans, we don't inspect those anymore."]

"Ang tinitignan natin yung mga obvious na nagnenegosyo o mga traders natin na ginagamit ang balikbayan boxes para maipalusot nila yung items nila at maka-menos sa tax through consolidated cargoes."

[Translation: "What we are looking for are commercial goods or the goods of traders who use balikbayan boxes through consolidated cargoes, thinking they can evade taxes."]

Lachica admitted that complaints about balikbayan boxes had never ceased. But for now, only those who intend to pursue cases are being formally investigated.

Lachica said anyone who would want to report customs-related matters or complaints could reach the bureau through its hotline (02) 7056052 or 7056067 or through its website (customs.gov.ph).