The outcry prompted President Benigno Aquino III to stop physical inspections on balikbayan boxes.
He added that the BoC does not have the authority to add taxes to the balikbayan boxes.
The group also said that the BoC should instead go after big-time smugglers at the bureau and not to OFWs who merely send second hand or affordable gifts to their families in the Philippines.
BOC may also produce and print information, notices, leaflets on the new rules and regulations for the importation of balikbayan boxes “in order to provide OFWs with clear information on the simplified customs procedures prescribed under the order”.
Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on the controversial random inspection customs policy of inspecting “balikbayan” boxes, Recto pointed out that the BOC has confirmed that the amount of duties and taxes on a shipping container has been increased from P80,000 to P120,000.
The senator further pressed Lina to cite a specific case of a balikbayan box that contained arms or drugs but the customs official could not give him an answer except for saying that they received reports and that they have actual apprehensions at the airport.
He went on to say that they are now “drafting a new policy to make it easier for OFWs to get their balikbayan boxes while the BOC is addressing the issue on smuggling”.
For balikbayan box/es without violation, they will be segregated and provisionally released to allow continuous processing.
Customs will also acquire additional K-9 units and install CCTVs in all authorized inspection and examination areas.
“We appreciate Commissioner Lina’s clarification before the Senate and the public at large that the OFWs were never a target, and that he would like to see more protection and benefits for our overseas workers in the proposed law”, John Bertiz, OFW coalition spokesman, said.
Lachica said the Department of Budget and Management – Procurement Service is expected to award the project next week.
“As regards to the K9 the BAC will take this up as emergency procurement”.
The COM takes effect immediately and repeals all existing orders, circulars, memoranda, and other issuances “inconsistent or in conflict with this order”, BOC said.
“The OFW Coalition composed of various OFW groups and advocates welcome the public apology of Commissioner Alberto Lina, and look forward to contributing to the creation of a special provision in the proposed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) in favor of our modern-day heroes”, said Susan Ople, president of the Center.