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Recto wants BOC to stop opening ‘balikbayan’ boxes

 

The chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee reviewing the Bureau of Customs (BOC) budget said agency officials will be grilled on the status of the shift to non-intrusive inspection techniques, which could detect contraband goods without opening the balikbayan boxes sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“There are ways to catch the rat without burning the entire house down,” Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto said, stressing “that programs to find big-time smugglers and not a few bars of bath soap in a balikbayan box” are already funded under the BOC’s operating budget this year.

One of these is the P298 million allotted for the upkeep of 30 “big” x-ray machines from China, which are installed in the country‘s 10 biggest ports, Recto said.

The x-ray machines, which can scan one 40- and 20-foot shipping container in minutes, were acquired in 2006 at $2.5 million each through a loan from the Chinese government.

Recto said under a Palace order governing the “Non-Intrusive Container Inspection System,” each 40-footer van is charged a “container security fee” of $10, while a 20 footer is charged $5.

“This year, fees collected from the operation of these x-ray machines will reach almost P1.2 billion,” he said. Seventy-five percent of this amount will be used to repay China.

According to Recto, the x-ray program “was meant to do away with manual inspections since the use of the x-ray is like seeing through inside the van.”

“It was designed to replace tedious, inefficient manual and balikbayan box-to-balikbayan box inspection and was supposed to make the opening of boxes redundant,” Recto said.

To augment the Chinese-made x-ray machines, Recto said the BOC invited bidders to a P148-million contract to supply 20 x-ray machines to be installed in airports in 2013.

Recto suggested that x-ray machines should also be installed in post offices where BOC personnel are detailed to check incoming parcel for taxable goods.

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