What does Customs Want from our Balikbayan Box?

Just last week, ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol reported a story of a returning Filipino resident from the US, who was deemed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to have abused his privilege of bringing home gifts to his family by bringing home an insane amount of luxury goods. The man was then released upon payment of taxes (up to PHP 85,000 / USD $1,800) which were imposed on his ‘goods’.  This prompted the Bureau of Customs to release a statement:

Belinda Copioso Customs

Screengrab shows BOC-NAIA Asst. Chief Belinda Copioso making a statement on taxable items in our balikbayan boxes.

Kahit isang piraso lang siya, just like ‘yung mga imported bags, kahit sabihin mo syang OFW sya, kahit balikbayan sya, if he bought something abroad, and he went to the Philippines, and bringing something that is really taxable, they have to be taxed.

-BOC-NAIA Asst. Chief Belinda Copioso





This statement gained reactions from netizens across social media, with some questioning her assets:

Belinda Copioso BOC Customs Netizen Twitter Facebook Reaction 1Belinda Copioso BOC Customs Netizen Twitter Facebook Reaction 1Belinda Copioso BOC Customs Netizen Twitter Facebook ReactionBelinda Copioso BOC Customs Netizen Twitter Facebook Reaction 1Belinda Copioso BOC Customs Netizen Twitter Facebook Reaction 1

The netizens were not outraged with what the BOC did with the returning resident who reportedly bought home an abundance of luxury goods, but they were furious about the statement by the assistant chief, which also directly affects the average Filipino. Add to that the lack of clarity of the statement, which further adds to the frustration and anger of fellow Filipinos.

Belinda Copioso BOC Customs Netizen Twitter Facebook Reaction

This question to Official Gazette PH’s Twitter account (@govph) remains unanswered as of post time.

Since above question remains unanswered as of post time, let’s try to answer this by examining below publication by the Philippine consulate in Australia.

Duty-Free entry of personal effects by incoming travelers

Articles brought in by Filipinos and visitors alike, whether in accompanied or non-accompanied baggage arriving within reasonable time, consisting of used personal effects in non-commercial quantity are not subject to taxes and duties. Other duty-free items are wine and spirits not exceeding two bottles, tobacco and cigarettes not exceeding 200 sticks, cosmetics and perfumery not exceeding one bottle.

Returning Filipinos known as Balikbayan, those who have stayed abroad for more than a year, may in addition bring in duty-free used electric or electronic appliances, one of each kind.

Philippine Consulate in Australia


It only gets more confusing. For most of us who travel from and to the country, our luggages or balikbayan boxes when we return consists mostly of “used personal effects in non-commercial quantity”. However, the usage of this phrase by the Philippine consulate is too vague

And oh, what about the ‘un-used” or “brand new” clothes, shoes, and even chocolates that we bought while vacationing abroad? Normally, it comprises majority of our pasalubongs, however, it seems there’s no room for this category in above publication.

If only the Bureau of Customs can clarify these questions by their government’s taxpayers.