One of the most important things in sending balikbayan boxes, just like in any cargo shipment, is the packing list, or the list of the contents of the particular box that you are shipping to the Philippines. And yet, many senders and cargo forwarders tend to ignore its importance.
Philippine Bureau of Customs per Memorandum Circular # 79- 90 Section 2.2.13 requires the submission of Export Declaration and Packing List. Atlas Shippers International, in compliance with the said provision, asked for a duly completed packing list for every box shipped. Shipper or customer is required to list the contents of the balikbayan box in a separate paper to ensure that there are no restricted items included.
Packing lists are often included in the invoice or bill of lading that cargo companies give to senders to fill up. But often, senders just fill up portions on the sender’s and beneficiary’s information such as names, address and contact information, and for some reason, leave the portion on the contents of the box blank. Some agents, on the other hand, are too in a hurry to transact business that they accept the box without the needed packing list and just place “Personal Effects” in the commercial invoice.
Cargo freight forwarders won’t be able to determine if there are suspect items inside those boxes unless the senders cooperate by truthfully declaring the boxes’ contents by filling out the packing list. By looking at the packing list, forwarders can identify items that are prohibited by both the laws of the US and the Philippines. That way, the agent picking up or receiving the cargo can tell the sender to remove the disallowed item.
By looking at the packing list, the agent can also determine if there are items that can break during the numerous loading and unloading stages along the way. Broken items often cause complaints by senders despite repeated warnings by cargo companies not to include breakable goods. Also, a broken bottle of wine or juice or even perfume can damage other goods in the box or the entire box itself.
The packing list can also help resolve disputes on missing items that some senders complain about. Although this is not a foolproof way of determining the true contents of the box because cargo companies cannot open the boxes once packed and strapped, senders are required to declare the contents through the packing list under pain of perjury and must, therefore, certify that the packing list submitted contains the true contents of the box. However, be reminded that insurance policies often limit payment of lost or damaged items up to only $200 per box, so I suggest you don’t include very expensive items in the box.
You all know by now that the Department of Homeland Security has been conducting r a n d o m i n s p e c t i o n s o f containers in an effort to protect American ships and commerce, and to prevent smuggling of prohibited and taxable goods.
We ask balikbayan customers to list down all the items that they would put inside the boxes in the packing list for their own protection and benefit. We are doing our best to deliver your boxes to your family and friends in the Philippines in a timely and secure manner. A truthful packing list will help us avoid those DHS inspections that take from two to four weeks, and also help us help you prevent damage to your goods.
During a meeting with Filipino cargo forwarders last month, officials from the DHS and the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles said the inspections would continue until attempts to smuggle prohibited and taxable commercial items and other violations are stopped.
They urged the cargo companies to do their own check before loading boxes into the containers so that suspect cargoes could be ferreted out even before they reach the port so that “clean” boxes would not be affected.
Here are some tips from the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau that can help ensure timely and secure delivery of your boxes:
List all items to be included in the box. Make at least 3 copies of the packing list - for the shipper, the consolidator (cargo company), and the consignee.
Money and jewelry should never be put in the box or inserted anywhere in the box.
In the same manner, guns, ammunitions, copyright items, hazardous materials, weapons, guns, and significant military equipments that include weapon sling, holster, handle, scope and any weapons parts are highly restricted items
Contrary to belief, canned foods are still acceptable to ship subject to commercial limitation of 12 items per product limitations.
When the box is received by the consignee check first if there is any indication of pilfering. Again, if possible, open the box in the presence of the person who delivered it and check if the items are complete as indicated in the packing list.
I m m e d i a t e l y i n f o r m the cargo company of any missing or broken items.
Joel P. Longares
Founding Chairman & CEO