Bureau of Customs police oversees the distribution of abandoned balikbayan boxes of OFWs and their relatives in a warehouse in Balagtas town. Photo by Anton Catindig

BALAGTAS, Bulacan–The distribution of abandoned balikbayan boxes of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in a warehouse in this town will remain until the last drop in time for Christmas, officials said over the weekend.

Robert Uy, president of FR Agbay Enterprises and representative of Association of Bidders at the Bureau of Customs (ABBC) said on Saturday that they will continue their weekly Saturday distribution and will not stop until all balikbayan boxes are claimed so that the OFWs and their recipient families can finally enjoy the goods they worked hard for them.

It was the fourth straight Saturday ABBC releases to respective claimants and owners the balikbayan boxes since after they won the bidding of 16 containers loaded with 4,625 in BOC in Sept. 30. The boxes were all owned by OFWs in Dubai.

There are still some 3,000 boxes left for distribution. Uy said 80% of these belong to OFWs in Luzon, mostly Isabela and Bicol. 

They paid for the deliveries to their home addresses and beneficiaries of the 4,625 balikbayan boxes to Win Balikbayan Cargo LLC (All Win) since last year. The containers arrived at the BOC on separate dates in 2021 and 2022 and were left abandoned at BOC Ports, Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz said. 

But freight company in the Philippines, Cargoflex Hauler Corporation did not file for an internal entry to BOC to pay the necessary fees to possess the balikbayan boxes, Uy said. 

As a result, the containers were auctioned to FR Agbay. As early as first to second week of October, FR Agbay had called on the owner and claimants of the boxes to pick them up at Hobart Warehouse in Barangay Burol 1st this town. 

FR Agbay and other BOC bidders have been regularly participating in such auctions for some decades as partners of BOC in its policy of delivering balikbayan boxes to the rightful owners/claimants. 

However, some 100 OFW and their recipients who rushed to pick up the packages last Saturday were dismayed and have raised complaints after they were prevented to pick-up their packages.

BOC Internal Administration Group and Trade Information Risk Analysis Director Michael Fermin said the OFW’s and their claimants should not spend any single centavo of coming to Bulacan to pick up their packages because Door-to-Door Cargo Association of the Philippines (DDCAP) is tasked to deliver the goods in the home addresses of the OFW’s and their kin free of charge.

However, because they were already in the warehouse, their packages were released to them. 

Last week, Fermin, Uy and other BOC officials had a meeting and agreed for all pick-up distribution. Uy said many OFWs would not want to rely on deliveries because it took them already more than a year waiting for the delivery of their packages.

Jennifer Cruz, 34, who came all the way from Tiaong, Quezon came to Hobart to pick up the balikbayan box of her sister Jeysa Trinidad, 40, in Dubai. The packages were for her sister’s husband, Wilfredo Trinidad,42. but who had died in July without receiving the said goods.

Cruz told NEWS CORE it was her second time to pick up the goods and fortunately the boxes were found. The boxes could not be located when she came on Oct. 29. 

She said some of their boxes had already expired. 

“Malaking tulong po sa OFWs na wala silang babayaran pag pick-up kasi bayad na nila ang dapat pag-deliver nito. Pero noong una po kahit magbayad pa nga, makuha lang. Maagang pamasko po ito na makuha na nila at ng pamilya nila ang mga balikbayan boxes nila,” she said. 

Lourdes Malay, 82 from Iba, Zambales arrived at 4:00 a.m. to pick up the 3 balikbayan boxes of her daughter Lotis Malay in Dubai.

She said the goods were sent from Dubai last January but had not been delivered. She said her daughter had already gone home and returned to Dubai last August and still the packages were not received. 

The boxes bound to Visayas and Mindanao will be delivered after the warehouse has been emptied, Uy said. 

Fermin said the BOC has now proposed the creation of a joint team that will develop a system for the efficient and speedy release and delivery of balikbayan boxes.

The BOC has also warned Filipino workers abroad to be vigilant against dubious freight forwarders that continue to victimize OFWs. 

Aligned with the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., Ruiz said the Bureau would continuously work with ABBC to ensure the distribution of balikbayan boxes to the families of OFWs in time for the Christmas Season.