The Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Department of Finance (DOF) have signed Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 05-2016, which concerns the consolidated shipment of balikbayan boxes, to take effect on Christmas Day.

CAO 05-2016 serves as the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on Section 800 (g) of the Customs and Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), and covers the sending of balikbayan boxes by Qualified Filipinos While Abroad (QFWA) to their families and relatives, which shall be exempt from the payment of duties and taxes, up to three (3) times and shall not exceed Php150,000.00 in a calendar year. Balikbayan boxes brought in through means other than consolidated shipments shall be covered by a different CAO.

This CAO states that only qualified Filipinos abroad may avail of duty and tax free privileges on balikbayan boxes containing personal effects and households goods. Under the CMTA, Qualified Filipinos While Abroad (QFWA) are the following:

  1. holders of valid passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and certified by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) or Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for overseas employment purposes regardless of profession;
  2. non-resident Filipinos who have established permanent residency abroad but retained their Filipino citizenship; and,
  3. resident Filipino citizens who temporarily stay abroad (may include holders of student visa, investors’ visa, tourist visa, and similar visas which allow them to establish temporary stay abroad).

To be granted this privilege, the following requirements must be met:

  1. A QFWA shall submit the following supporting documents:
    • Photocopy of a page of his/her Philippine passport with personal information, picture and signature, or photocopy of his/her foreign passport with personal information, picture and signature plus proof of copy of dual citizenship; and,
    • Invoice, receipt or equivalent document covering the goods in the balikbayan box, if any.
  1. A QFWA shall accomplish, sign and submit the Information Sheet, which will be issued by BOC and will serve as the packing list.
  1. The international forwarder/consolidator shall submit these Information Sheets and supporting documents in a secured electronic format to local (Philippine) forwarder/deconsolidator.
  1. The local forwarder/deconsolidator shall transmit to the Bureau the Information Sheet and supporting documents in a secured electronic format before the arrival of the balikbayan boxes to the Philippines and within the period prescribed:

    For consolidated shipments by sea:

    • For shipments that will take 3-day shipping time: 24 hours prior to arrival
    • For shipments that will take 7-day shipping time: 48 hours prior to arrival
    • For shipments coming from America, Europe, Middle East, and other parts of the world that does not fall under the above shipping time: 10 days prior to arrival.

    For consolidated shipments carried by aircraft:

    • For those coming from Asia – 1 hour prior to arrival
    • For those coming from other countries – 6 hours prior to arrival
  1. A QFWA shall also certify that only personal effects and household goods, which shall not be in commercial quantities, are sent through balikbayan boxes.

Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon calls on all international and local forwarders, foreign consolidators and local deconsolidators to strictly follow these guidelines, to enable customs to expedite clearance procedures, and for them to ensure that all balikbayan boxes are delivered to their receiver with utmost care.

“We value the importance of each balikbayan box. They symbolize the hardship of our overseas Filipino workers, and the love of Filipinos abroad for their families here in the country.”

Commissioner Faeldon has earlier reminded all port officials and personnel to expedite release and handling of the boxes and to follow the Bureau’s ‘no opening of balikbayan boxes’ policy unless there is derogatory information that warrants the opening of these boxes. BOC is also appealing to the public not to misuse the privilege granted by law.

BOC further clarifies that the CAO shall be effective 15 days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation. The CAO has been published in Manila Times today, 10 December, and shall be effective on Christmas Day, 25 December. Therefore, only QFWAs who send their boxes after this CAO is in effect and who have duly accomplished the Information Sheet and complied with the requirements stated in the CAO can avail of this privilege.