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OFWs, travelers gain in new Customs law

OFWs, travelers gain in new Customs law

MANILA: Travelers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are top beneficiaries of a newly signed law updating the country’s customs regulations that were last tweaked nearly 30 years ago.

President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), last Friday, amending the Customs and Tariff Code last touched in 1987, the Bureau of Customs said in a statement.

“This is truly a milestone for this administration and the continuing reforms we institutionalize in the bureau,” Customs commissioner Alberto Lina was quoted as saying.

Included is a new provision that allows OFWs to send in balikbayan boxes, contents of which amounting to not more than P150,000 shall be tax-free. The privilege may be availed three times a year.

For travelers, shopping just got a boost as the law allows bringing in personal valuables worth a minimum of P150,000 to a maximum of P350,000, depending on length of stay abroad.

Returning OFWs get an additional P150,000 allowance. The original cap was pegged at P10,000.

Values may now also be adjusted by the Department of Finance.

Last year, Customs drew flak when it ordered the opening of balikbayan boxes it claimed were being used to smuggle undervalued and illegal goods. It later on withdrew the rule on Aquino’s orders.

Aside from this, a returning Filipino martial arts fighter also cried foul when she was charged P6,000 for her championship belt. Lina said the duties on the prize were properly computed.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said CMTA also modernizes Customs to promote faster trade facilitation, including advance clearance procedures and minimal discretion given to customs officers.

“Embracing technology and updating regulatory frameworks reduces opportunities for corruption and streamlines client experience with the BOC,” he said in a separate statement.

Lina said Customs began investing on its Information Technology systems ahead of the law’s signing. For one, it launched a partnership with Microsoft to fight hacking on its systems two weeks ago.

“The CMTA will establish the requisite foundation for a cashless, faceless and paperless environment in Customs,” he said.

Sought for comment, Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc., said CMTA could assist the country on its bid to become part of US-led trade pact Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“This streamlines our processes with other countries, which could help facilitate more trade with our neighbors,” Ortiz-Luis said in a phone interview.