MANILA- Senator Ralph Recto on Sunday revealed that P298 million is allotted for the maintenance of 30 x-ray machines installed in 10 biggest ports in the country supposedly used for inspections on balikbayan boxes.
The x-ray machine program is intended to catch big-time smugglers and these are funded under the Bureau of Custom’s operating budget this year. Recto, who chairs the Senate Finance Subcommittee, warned that the BOC officials will be grilled on the status of non-intrusive inspection techniques which could detect smuggled goods without opening the balikbayan boxes sent by Filipino workers abroad.
Based from ABS-CBN, each machine was purchased in 2006 at $2.5 million each through a loan from the Chinese government. He said that the x-ray program was meant to do away with manual inspections because with the x-ray, you can see through the contents of the packages contained in a van.
Recto, likewise, suggested to triple to $1,500 the current allowable value of the contents of the balikbayan boxes exempt from taxes. He said the $500 was set in 25 years ago and has not been changed ever since. He explained that if the taxable limit is set higher, there will be no motive to inspect the boxes’ contents.
“Ibalato na natin sa mga OFWs ang balikbayan boxes kasi ang pagpapadala nyan sa kanilang mahal sa buhay ay isang paraan para mabawasan nila ng konti ang kanilang kalungkutan,” he said. (Let’s leave the balikbayan boxes to the OFWs because it is one of the ways to lessen their homesickness.)
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Partylist representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate will file a House resolution to probe into the BOC’s stricter inspection rules.
Rather than harassing the OFWs, the BOC should instead focus on solving the immense corruption in their agency and target big time smugglers, Colmenares pointed out in Politics.com. He added, in a GMA report, that the inspection may be another source of corruption and will result in theft and further port congestion.
“It is not good that while tons of garbage and smuggled contrabands enter the country the BOC would train their sights on OFWs and their families,” the leader of the Makabayan bloc said.
Zarate, on the other hand, said BOC’s rules is another scheme to swindle money from the OFWs. He said that the P600 million a year the Customs claims to be losing is a small amount compared to the billions lost in corruption and smuggling.
Like Recto, he stated that x-ray machines can be used to inspect the balikbayan boxes without opening them.