There will be no random or arbitrary physical inspection of balikbayan boxes."
This was the first point made in a statement released on the website of the Department of Finance regarding the issue of customs officials inspecting care packages sent by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to their relatives in the Philippines.
The statement was released on Monday evening (August 24) after President Benigno Aquino III met with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisma and Customs Commissioner Albert Lina.
According to the statement, some 7.2 million balikbayan boxes are sent per month and that inspections are made on the basis of actual intelligence of a potential violation or threat.
The Department of Finance (DOF) said the president has ordered the Bureau of Customs to immediately stop the random or arbitrary inspection of balikbayan boxes and that these should undergo mandatory X-ray and K-9 examination at no cost to the sender.
Only in cases where there are derogatory findings from the X-ray or K-9 examination will there be a physical inspection of goods.
Should a physical inspection be needed, the BOC will request that a representative of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) or a designated officer of an OFW association be present, with provisions for CCTV monitoring of the proceedings.
Employees who violate the protocol or "engage in pilferage" will be prosecuted and punished.
The DOF also encouraged the public to submit videotaped or photographic evidence of such acts to the Customs chief.
Elmo de Guia spent only two years working as a mechanic in Saudi Arabia, but he sent well over 10 boxes over that period.
He says it has become part of his routine, just like the other Filipinos he met abroad.
He said he'd go to shopping malls after receiving his pay and buy things to send home.
Jaime Cosco, on the other hand, spent 17 years in Japan. He says he has mastered the technique of filling a box to the brim.
Always at the top of his shopping list are clothes – but not because Tokyo is known as one of the top fashion capitals in the world.
Cosco says he would use clothes to stuff empty spaces in the boxes to prevent fragile items from breaking.
A study by anthropologist Dr. Clement Camposano says the balikbayan box is a way for overseas Filipinos to feel they are still part of their household
Another study, published by international librarian Jade Alburo, says that the balikbayan box not only shows how much Filipino workers abroad care for their loved ones, they also provide bragging rights for brand-conscious Filipinos.
Just like Zenith Asuncion who looks forward to the balikbayan boxes of her eldest son in Germany because of the European items he sends which she can't afford locally.
One time, she asked for a bag, and her son went the extra mile sending her a signature bag.
Social status symbol or care package, the balikbayan box is no doubt a part of Philippine culture that will stay for generations to come.