Unite, all Overseas Filipinos!

NOW this I don’t get. Taxing and opening Balikbayan Boxes (BB)? At the start of the ghost month, the Aquino administration is playing a joke on us, both to the sender and the receiver. Oh Mar, the joke is also on you!

NOW this I don’t get. Taxing and opening Balikbayan Boxes (BB)? At the start of the ghost month, the Aquino administration is playing a joke on us, both to the sender and the receiver. Oh Mar, the joke is also on you!

Per the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, there are 10,460,327 to 13,500,000 Filipinos abroad as of FY2012. Of this, 2.3 million are Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs based on the 2014 Survey of Overseas Filipinos. Now, here comes the Bureau of Customs (BOC) plan to open balikbayan boxes at random and impose tax on the personal effects of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Imagine just 20% of the total Overseas Filipinos sending BBs. Have you actually done a cost benefit analysis? Have you studied the impact of that? Just like your plate numbers and license cards, simple things not delayed before but are now the symbol of Tuwid na Daan. Unintended consequences? What if 10 million send BBs? The BOC can randomly check for a representative sample? Wouldn’t that cause bottlenecks? Nearing Yuletide Season, the busiest month at the ports?

The BB is what? Just in case the caciques in you do not understand. It represents connection to family. It is an emotional symbol of love and care for family. It is a magical box when opened the father or mother are able to fulfill the wishes and dreams of their parents and their kids back home. And you have the gall to rummage through it and further tax it? For what? To fight smuggling? And you think wholesale smuggling is in BBs more than in container vans. Oh and by the way, have you closed the lid on the “nearly 2,000 container vans disappeared in broad daylight while these were being transshipped from Manila to the Port of Batangas between May and June this year? Within 61 days, the vans went missing at the rate of 32 vans a day.”

The Overseas Filipinos have the numbers and they have the financial muscle. There is no debate that the remittances from the OFW has continued to buoy our economy, whether you recognize that or not. The Aquino government may thump their chests and shout to the whole world, we made it because of Tuwid na Daan and all but one group they consistently set aside, for the past five years. You consistently belittle their contributions. Remember, Mr. President, we called them modern day heroes, or you just don’t like them? Look at the immigration lines and see how you treat them compared to foreign visitors.

Now, would continuity of the Aquino administration beyond 2016 mean giving the same treatment to OFWs? Most politicians are saying, absentee voting is a failure (same as ARMM, remember?) since the turnout is so low. Originally, the thinking was with 10 mkillion overseas Filipinos and with economic means, they can certainly change the norm in Manila. If only OFWs and OFs could rally their families back home to cast their votes to candidates they support, there could be a deeper change in the political terrain.

The OFWs have economic power. Overseas Filipino workers “sent $2.18 billion in June 2015 bringing total remittances in the first half of the year to $12.18 billion or 5.6 percent higher than the same period last year.”

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) “attributed the increase in remittance to the steady demand for Filipino workers, particularly in the Middle East, and the growing network of local bank’s money transfer agents overseas.” BSP explained the “money are banked as cash remittances and are captured by branch networks monitored by the central bank. It is different from ‘personal remittances’ because these are personal and capital transfers between households and is the sum of overseas Filipinos’ net compensation.”

Numbers and economic power, two things politicos understand anywhere in the globe. Unfortunately, the local ones dismiss and diss them. So here it goes: To all OFWs and OF, unite and show to this administration your power to say no. The three to six months you spend putting things inside the BB is just a single day decision on May 2016. Reject them. Hold them accountable for their decisions now. Register your opposition. Roar so they don’t step on you. Get your representatives to raise the roof and let that thunder from all corners of the world register your opposition. Enough is enough. Defend your BB because that is your right under Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code on tax free privileges to OFWs. Go to social media wherever you are and join the campaign #NotoBBTax #StopCustomsCorruption. Tell your story like what Mike Magat, an employee (kitchen staff) of at Chungli Touyuon County in Taiwan has done. Rise and rage!


Published in Manila Times on August 24, 2015: http://www.manilatimes.net/unite-all-overseas-filipinos/212601

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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