August 25, 2015
Press Statement

Reference: Aurora Victoria David, NAFCON Alliance Secretary

Filipinos in the US to Philippine government: We are not your milking cows! Do your job and protect Filipinos overseas!

Filipinos in the United States vow to remain vigilant against any actions of the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) to open Balikbayan boxes sent by overseas Filipinos for inspection and taxation in an attempt to fulfill a P600-million target revenue from balikbayan boxes set by the Philippine government. The recent retraction of BOC of its original proposal to mandatorily open Balikbayan boxes is due to the outrage expressed by Filipinos worldwide and our families.
 
However, the BOC still plans to increase clearing fees for all containers entering Philippines ports to as much as P100,000 to P120,000, which would translate to an additional $7 per balikbayan box. According to Migrante Partylist, the first increase of P40,000 per container was imposed last July 27, while another wave of increase is reportedly scheduled to take effect on October 1. Filipino workers abroad, freight forwarders, and stakeholders were not consulted in this process.
 
Given the government’s long history of raising fees paid by Filipino migrants who then receive no services or support in return, NAFCON considers all of these actions to be money-making schemes intent on milking Filipino workers abroad of their hard-earned money for the personal interests of government officials.
 
Not only is this issue insulting to migrant workers abroad who try to fill these boxes with items worth months of wages to express their love and fulfill their longing for their families back home, but at the same time it is also infuriating that our tears and sweat are being translated into money for corrupt government officials and agencies.
 
Initially defending the BOC, President Aquino himself stated that the BOC was just “doing its job.” Is that the same reasoning the President uses when he maintains his agencies’ budgets for his P1 trillion worth of pork barrel funds? Were Aquino’s agencies also “doing their job” when they neglected Mary Jane Veloso and countless victims of human trafficking abroad?   By “doing its job,” does Aquino refer to his administration's labor export policy that continues to force more than 6,000 Filipinos abroad daily in search of livelihood?
 
The statements of Aquino and his cohorts in the BOC reflect their ignorance and callousness to the plight of Filipinos worldwide. But the latest outrage on and off social media from various parts of the world has also reminded this government that organized, Filipino immigrants and migrants are powerful. We are 15 million strong, with almost half of the Philippine population being remittance-receiving families. The resounding demand of Filipinos is clear: Protect migrant workers instead of squeezing more money from us! Aquino can start by finding and jailing trafficker Isidro Rodriguez for tricking hundreds of Filipino teachers, coming to the aid of workers who are victims of wage theft and labor trafficking such as the Filipino bakery workers in LA, and re-investigating the death of Romina Ignacio in Kansas which was deemed suicide despite autopsy results in the Philippines revealing stab wounds. He should also ensure the retraction of the P600-million target revenue from Balikbayan boxes.
 
For the 4 million of Filipinos here in the US, let us unite with others worldwide to make sure our concerns are addressed and our rights protected, our hard-earned money goes to our families and not to corrupt politicians, and our home country is led by a government that does not turn our love for family into a profit-making business.

We enjoin Filipinos worldwide to participate in Zero Remittance Day on August 28 to call on the Aquino administration to retract the P600-million target revenue from balikbayan boxes.

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