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Sending money or gift from abroad, a Filipino trait, says Baldoz

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) sending money to their families, as well as goodies and gifts to loved ones and friends in the Philippines is very Filipino and an enduring Filipino cultural trait.

“The balik-bayan box is part of Filipino culture and tradition and I don’t think OFWs will abuse this tradition to send in or smuggle contraband that will put them and their families in danger,” said Baldoz in the wake of reports the Bureau of Customs will implement more stringent inspection of balik-bayan boxes, a move that has infuriated many OFWs.

Baldoz said she believes the BOC has sufficient means to ensure that balik-bayan boxes conform with tariff and customs regulations and it has the technology to examine them for health and safety to avoid abuse of the privilege.

She urged the BOC to reconsider its plan to open and inspect balik-bayan boxes because these are very personal, and close to the heart, of OFWs, hence, not a commercial transaction. “Filipinos in general, and OFWs in particular, have a long-cherished tradition of caring and sharing with families, neighbors, and friends, and this tradition is symbolized by the balik-bayan box,” she said.

“Majority of OFWs set aside, and patiently wait for months, whatever material possession they have acquired abroad—clothers, shoes, perfumes, canned goods, home appliances, and personal gadgets—and send these home as gifts and as symbols of their generosity and love, not as items or objects of commerce, hence, their monetary value may not be so high or great to merit BOC’s special interest for revenue generation,” she added.

“I urge the BOC to reconsider this plan,” she said.