Filipinos in the UAE are unhappy about new inspection plan
A new plan to open boxes of personal goods Filipino expatriates send to their families back home has not been taken well by the community. According The National, the Philippines bureau of customs announced the conducting of random inspections of balikbayan – which means “returning to homeland” – boxes as part of an anti-smuggling campaign.
Filipinos working and living abroad are unhappy with this decision and have concerns regarding the safety of their goods. Genelene Acosta told The National: “It’s so disappointing. I don’t understand why they need to open our boxes. It’s an invasion of our privacy.” She sends one box each year to Nueva Ciscaya province and fills it with clothes, bars of soap, bottles of cooking oil, packs of sugar and other items. She added: “These balikbayan boxes are important to us and our loved ones back home. Our families love receiving presents from us, and everyone’s excited to open them.” Genelene hopes that the customs officials “won’t implement” these inspections.
According to The National, Carmen Alianza, who works as a housemaid said it was insulting to have authorities go through her things. She said: “I felt so upset after learning about the inspections. It’s just not right for them to open our boxes, and maybe take some of the items inside.”
The chief executive of Luzan Express Cargo, Luz Galvez, insisted that items would not go missing. She said: “Our customers are required to fill out a packing list and we assure them that the boxes won’t be pilfered or damaged. Customs officials are only after boxes filled with goods in commercial quantities, which are not allowed in balikbayan boxes.”
Prior to Christmas, around 5,000 boxes are shipped during the peak season. Luz Galvez said that these inspections can lead to a “one week” delay in arrival.
Joseph Iyo, a sales representative for Makati Express, told The National: “There are other ways of inspecting boxes sent by smugglers without the need of opening them. But if random inspections will be carried out, it’s best for our customers to send groceries and toiletries in limited quantities and refrain from sending high-value items that could be lost or stolen during inspection.”
The Philippine ambassador to the UAE said that the government was aware of the concerns regarding the proposal. She said: “The concerned Philippine authorities will study the issue thoroughly before deciding on the matter.”