MANILA, Philippines – Good news for Filipinos expecting to receive balikbayan boxes filled with Christmas goodies from their relatives and friends abroad.
The Bureau of Customs has launched an online tracking system that will enable recipients of these boxes to check on the status of their packages.
Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla on Tuesday said it was the Department of Finance-attached agency’s “way of helping our kababayans find their balikbayan boxes when they encounter problems.”
“We have received several complaints from families of overseas Filipino workers blaming the bureau for their lost boxes,” he said.
With the tracker, Sevilla said “the public will no longer be given the run-around by people responsible for delivering their balikbayan boxes.”
According to the BOC head, the tracker “contains the list of all balikbayan box shipments lodged by local cargo forwarders with Customs, their countries of origin, ports of entry in the Philippines and their bills of lading with the number of the shipments.”
“To access the balikbayan box tracker, just go to the Bureau of Customs website (http://customs.gov.ph) and click the “Balikbayan Box Tracker” banner,” he advised.
The tracker also “contains the name of the foreign forwarder, name of the local forwarder or broker, entry date filed, date cleared, and the current status (of the shipment).”
“Families expecting balikbayan boxes should know the name of the forwarder and the bill of lading number to be able to track the shipment where the box is included,” Sevilla explained.
Balikbayan boxes sent from abroad are “usually consolidated into batches and placed in one container van aboard a cargo vessel bound for the Philippines.
“Each container van has about 400 balikbayan boxes. Shipments from Asia typically arrive here in 15 to 20 days while those from North America or Europe arrive in 55 to 65 days. The local cargo forwarder handles the customs clearance of the entire shipment, as well as the delivery of each box to the intended recipient in the country,” said the BOC public information and assistance office.
For its part, the Department of Trade and Industry expects the online tracking system to “lessen, if not totally eliminate consumer complaints on loss, non-delivery and pilferage of balikbayan boxes.”
DTI Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba said they “fully support the BOC in this initiative that can greatly assist consumers on the delivery and receipt of their balikbayan boxes.”
“Simultaneously, the tracker can serve as a venue for accredited Philippine sea freight forwarders to police their own ranks and prevent questionable acts and dealings,” he said.
To date, the DTI’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau has accredited 654 Philippine sea freight forwarders.
An estimated 5.5 million balikbayan boxes are sent to the Philippines each year, about 40 percent of which arrive here from September to December.
About 65 percent of the shipments are received at the Manila International Container Port while the rest are shipped through the Port of Manila, as well as Cebu, Davao and the Subic Freeport in Zambales.
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