Pimentel files bill prohibiting opening of balikbayan boxes of OFWs

September 9, 2015 4:52 am 

MANILA, Sept. 8 – Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said on Tuesday he has filed a bill prohibiting not only the opening of balikbayan boxes but exempting "one balikbayan box per month per OFW" from duties and taxes.

”It is in recognition of overseas Filipino workers' (OFWs) significant contribution to the national economy,” Pimentel said in filing Senate Bill No. 2927.

”It is but a small measure of assistance in view of the tireless efforts of our OFWs, who work selflessly abroad and endure long separation and loneliness from their loved ones,” he added.

Citing the constitutional provision that the government shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare, the proposed measure aims to institute an expanded balikbayan program, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 6768 as amended by R.A. 9174 and for other purposes.

Citing the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Pimentel said approximately 1.832 million OFWs were deployed abroad last year whose personal remittances accounted for 8.5 percent of the country's gross national product (GDP) for the year.

"We cannot thus take for granted the crucial role played by our OFWs in helping sustain the continuous development of our country through the foreign currencies remitted to their families back home," he said.

Pimentel said the state, for its part, must make certain that "our prevailing legislation would help augment not only the lives of our OFWs, but also their families who were left behind."

On the average, some 400,000 balikbayan boxes are shipped monthly back home by OFWs which the BOC had earlier threatened to open at random because of reports that they were being allegedly used to smuggle in highly-dutiable items, including illegal drugs and guns.

Amid strong protest from the OFWs, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the BOC to stop the implementation of the new regulation. (PNA)

SCS/JFM

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