Dec 022014

Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Here’s good news for Filipinos expecting balikbayan boxes filled with goodies from their overseas relatives this Christmas.

They may now track the progress of their packages on their way to the Philippines via an online tracking system launched recently by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), a Department of Finance-attached agency.

Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla on Tuesday said it was the BOC’s “way of helping our kababayan 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.

But with the tracker, Sevilla said, “The public will no longer be given the runaround by the people responsible for delivering their balikbayan boxes.”

Sevilla said the tracker “contains the list of all balikbayan box shipments lodged by local cargo forwarders with the Bureau of Customs, their countries of origin, ports of entry in the Philippines and their bills of lading with the number of the shipment.”

“To access the balikbayan box tracker, go to the Bureau of Customs website— —and click on the Balikbayan Box Tracker banner,” he said.

The tracker “contains the names of the foreign forwarder and the local forwarder or broker, entry date, clearance date and current status (of the shipment).”

“People expecting balikbayan boxes should know the name of the forwarder and bill of lading number to be able to track the shipment that includes their box,” Sevilla said.

Balikbayan boxes are “usually consolidated and shipped in one container van on cargo vessels bound for the Philippines. Each van contains around 400 balikbayan boxes. Shipments from Asia typically arrive in Manila in 15-20 days, while those from North America or Europe in 55-65 days.

“The local cargo forwarder handles the clearing of the entire container through customs and then delivers each box to its recipient,” 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 of losses, nondelivery 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 in the delivery and receipt of their balikbayan boxes.”

“Simultaneously, the tracker can [help] accredited Philippine freight forwarders police their ranks and prevent questionable acts and dealings,” he added.

To date, the DTI’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau has accredited 654 Philippine sea freight forwarders.

An estimated 5.5-million balikbayan boxes are shipped to the Philippines each year, around 40 percent of them between September and December.

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