Our love affair with Balikbayan boxes: Too soon to end?

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A Google Photo  |  By: FREDDY PANES | Overseas Pinoys are venting out their furor and anger towards the Philippine Bureau of Customs that have sent signals that they will soon start opening boxes for inspection and levying taxes on taxable goods.
+++ This is a good move to impose taxes on those that are sending high-end taxable goods back to the country using the so-called “Balikbayan Boxes”.  This move however can backfire because there is already a significant delay on their arrival and to submit these millions of boxes for inspection is like interviewing every person that comes into the country to an actual physical and personal interview.
+++ The actions of a few “bad apples” will definitely define the administrative action of the PBC especially now that they knew that some unscrupulous persons are using these “Balikbayan Boxes” to send illegal guns and other high-tech tools and gadgets eluding import taxes and the law.
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+++ It used to be that these “Balikbayan Boxes” are symbols of our love towards our family and relatives. For us Pinoys who have reached distant lands and have seen and touched and tasted what our family has not, we look to these boxes as a conduit and a link to them; that somehow what we could afford to send them and have them physically enjoy some of the things can alleviate that yearning towards them.
+++ Remember when we were sending tvs, microwaves, game consoles, foodstuffs, designer bags, perfumes, lingerie, and other personal things. I have seen people put toothpaste, pencils, books, notepads and small things for boxes destined to some mountain address for children.
+++ I have known medical practitioners put into these “Balikbayan Boxes” medical supplies, medicines and small equipment addressed to rural clinics that are so remote people from their area lovingly thought of them and sent them these goods. What better act of love and concern can be best demonstrated by our own people?
+++ It appears to me that the central idea over these latest brouhaha over these “BB” is money and of course, violation of contraband laws. Who cares about toothpastes and pencils and notebooks?  What about VIPs escorted out of the airport passing customs and even immigration?  have we become totally a country where the system have developed a strong hand to beat on “small people” and gave the “big guys” a pass? Please!
+++ If the Philippine Bureau of Customs is really well-meaning; they can have a spot check and impose really stiff penalties including imprisonment on those that brings these boxes with contraband or not declaring them. Or they can get the notch higher by identifying those that send contraband and misdeclared their contents by exacting fines upon their return to the country. and deny them entry if they do not pay the fine. I believed many of them are already “foreigners” (having acquired citizenship where they are currently living) and foreigners are held to a different standard by our laws back in the Philippines.
+++ Where will this lead us to?  It will disrupt the ongoing business of Balikabayan forwarders. I do not have the numbers as to how many of these boxes get in by sea freight, but if we round it off to a million boxes at $65 per box that is a whooping $65 million dollars right there. It is a healthy and economic business enterprise.
+++ Now that’s up to the PBC to step in and get their slice of the pie. They have for a long time allowed everybody to have their cake and eat it too. Joahnna Fausto, in her Columbia University blog  “Inside the Balikbayan Box” expresses the love affair of the giver and the receiver in a most poetic way:

“The goods in a balikbayan box are the material manifestations of love between persons as expressed through things.  The Colgate toothpaste and the Hershey’s kisses therefore, are personhoods reified.  And the temporal and spatial abyss that divides a balikbayan’s old life in the Philippines and his/her afterlife in the new host country is bridged through the shipment of a these goods in a balikbayan box, not in the form of a money remittance.”

freddy icon 1122 copyFreddy is also Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Upper Darby Sentinel News

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