HOW TO SAFEGUARD YOUR BALIKBAYAN BOX SHIPMENT

Current Affairs

HOW TO SAFEGUARD YOUR BALIKBAYAN BOX SHIPMENT

No Comments 24 December 2014

By Lorela U. Sandoval – – SENDING balikbayan boxes to relatives in the Philippines has been a lifelong tradition for Filipinos abroad and a tangible reminder of their love to families and friends back home. It is, however, fraught with problems and risks – ranging from late delivery and damage to the shipment to pilferage and missing or lost cargo.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has received many complaints regarding balikbayan boxes over the years. Based on data provided by Eduardo Quizon of the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau of DTI, the countries with the highest number of balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines are the Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong, Kuwait, Qatar, Taiwan, Singapore, Italy, United Kingdom (UK), and Korea.

Latest data from DTI show that the countries with the highest number of cases or complaints were UAE (174 cases) USA (170), KSA (112), Kuwait (46), Singapore (25), UK (21), and Hong Kong (10).

Dubai in UAE has the highest number of recorded cases at 167, prompting the DTI to label it a “hotspot”. In the USA, Chicago is tops at 52, while in KSA, it was Riyadh at 51.

The DTI recorded 73 complaints in 2010, 212 in 2011, 168 in 2012, 173 in 2013, and 45 as of June 2014.

UPDATE January 15, 2015 – The Department of Trade and Industry placed 43 foreign and local sea freight forwarders on its blacklist after shippers and consignees lodged numerous complaints against the firms, mainly the non-delivery of balikbayan boxes.

The complete list of the blacklisted freight forwarders and consolidators, and those that have pending cases are uploaded on the DTI’s website (http://www.dti.gov.ph/dti/index.php/resources/listings).

What does the agency do to address complaints involving balikbayan boxes? In an interview with Planet Philippines, Quizon explains that the agency follows a standard operating procedure when dealing with the complaints.

“When we receive complaints, we subject them to mediation, but first we need a formal written complaint supported by bill of lading, packing list, waybill, or invoices to validate their complaint,” said Quizon, who is DTI-PSB’s Shipping Operations Specialist II and recently Acting Consumer Adjudication Officer.

He cited an instance wherein two water heaters for a swimming pool were missing in a box that came from the US West Coast. To prove the pilferage complaint, the complainant took pictures of the fist-size gaping hole in the box.

If a freight forwarder is found to be scamming Filipinos overseas of their balikbayan boxes, the Fair Trade and Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) may impose monetary fines, suspension or cancellation of accreditation.

“Once we find out they have liability there is a fine of P50,000 for first offense. Second offense, there is a cease and desist order. Third is closure,” said.

If a settlement is reached between the forwarder and the complainant, the forwarder has to pay specific fees to the complainant and to the DTI office as well for culpability.

Quizon said that if the complainant wants to pursue a criminal case against the forwarder, he should file a case before a regular court. The DTI handles only administrative cases.

To lessen cases of Filipinos getting victimized and curb the malfeasance of some freight forwarders, the DTI regularly holds roadshows and information drives abroad to educate overseas Filipinos on how to protect their shipments.

Quizon said the roadshows have been very successful in imparting practical tips and information to overseas Filipinos, particularly the OFWs who are usual victims of unscrupulous forwarders.
Here are some practical tips to protect balikbayan box shipments:
• Book your balikbayan boxes only with cargo consolidator/freight forwarders accredited by the Fair Trade and Enforcement Bureau if by sea or the Civil Aeronautics Authority of the Philippines if by air. Senders can check the consolidator/forwarder’s name on www.dti.gov.ph under the section of the Consumer Welfare and Business Regulation or through the Philippine Consulate office overseas.
• Monitor regular advisories and alerts at www.dti.gov.ph.
• Organize your box and declare your shipment by completing a detailed list of the contents and their value. If possible, include the description and brand of each item. Attach one copy of the list outside the box; place another copy of the list inside the box so the recipient can ascertain of any item is missing.
• Secure transport or shipping documents such as official or cargo receipt for fees paid, and a Bill of Lading, which is a document issued by a transportation carrier to the shipper as proof that they received the shipment of goods and placed them on board a particular vessel for delivery to a particular destination.
• Get the complete name and contact details of the forwarder’s agent in the Philippines, and ensure that such information are indicated in the official receipt or transport document.
• Monitor the movement of your cargo from the point of origin to destination to ensure proper shipment and delivery.
• Inform your consignee to check your cargo with the agent in the Philippines even before the cargo arrives.
• For cases of pilferage, lost item, or non-delivery, file an immediate claim or complaint with the customer service of the freight forwarder. You may also file a complaint directly to the Philippine Shippers Bureau at 2nd Floor Department of Trade and Industry Bldg. 361 Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City, or call the DTI-Direct Hotline 02-7513330.

BUREAU OF CUSTOMS’ ONLINE TRACKING SYSTEM

THE Bureau of Customs has launched an online tracking system that will enable recipients of balikbayan boxes to check on the status of their packages.

Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla said on Dec. 2 it was the agency’s “way of helping our kababayans find their balikbayan boxes when they encounter problems.”

“We have received several complaints from families of overseas Filipino workers blaming the bureau for their lost boxes,” he said.

With the tracker, Sevilla said “the public will no longer be given the run-around by people responsible for delivering their balikbayan boxes.”

According to the BOC head, the tracker “contains the list of all balikbayan box shipments lodged by local cargo forwarders with Customs, their countries of origin, ports of entry in the Philippines and their bills of lading with the number of the shipments.”

To access the balikbayan box tracker, go to the Bureau of Customs website (http://customs.gov.ph) and click the “Balikbayan Box Tracker” banner. The tracker also contains the name of the foreign forwarder, name of the local forwarder or broker, entry date filed, date cleared, and the current status (of the shipment).

Customs officials inspect balikbayan box shipments.

Customs officials inspect balikbayan box shipments.

“Families expecting balikbayan boxes should know the name of the forwarder and the bill of lading number to be able to track the shipment where the box is included,” Sevilla explained.

Balikbayan boxes sent from abroad are “usually consolidated into batches and placed in one container van aboard a cargo vessel bound for the Philippines.

Each container van has about 400 balikbayan boxes. Shipments from Asia typically arrive here in 15 to 20 days while those from North America or Europe arrive in 55 to 65 days. The local cargo forwarder handles the customs clearance of the entire shipment, as well as the delivery of each box to the intended recipient in the country, the BOC public information and assistance office.

The Department of Trade and Industry expects the online tracking system to “lessen, if not totally eliminate consumer complaints on loss, non-delivery and pilferage of balikbayan boxes.”

“Simultaneously, the tracker can serve as a venue for accredited Philippine sea freight forwarders to police their own ranks and prevent questionable acts and dealings,” said DTI Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba.

To date, the DTI’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau has accredited 654 Philippine sea freight forwarders. An estimated 5.5 million balikbayan boxes are sent to the Philippines each year, about 40 percent of which arrive here from September to December.

About 65 percent of the shipments are received at the Manila International Container Port while the rest are shipped through the Port of Manila, as well as Cebu, Davao and the Subic Freeport in Zambales.

 

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PHILIPPINES THANKS WORLD FOR TYPHOON AID

Current Affairs

PHILIPPINES THANKS WORLD FOR TYPHOON AID

No Comments 09 February 2014

The Philippines says “Thank you” on billboards around the world in gratitude for the massive outpouring of international help after a typhoon that killed about 8,000 people three months ago. READ FULL STORY

 

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TACLOBAN IS LOSING THOSE WHO COULD REBUILD IT

Current Affairs

TACLOBAN IS LOSING THOSE WHO COULD REBUILD IT

No Comments 04 February 2014

The city is caught in a spiral of deprivation that will be hard to break, especially given the scope of a catastrophe that killed at least 6,000 people and was the deadliest natural disaster in the world last year. READ FULL STORY

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A NEW YEAR’S WISH LIST FOR THE PHILIPPINES

Current Affairs

A NEW YEAR’S WISH LIST FOR THE PHILIPPINES

No Comments 30 December 2013

It’s 2014!

The Mayan calendar ended on December 21, 2012, suggesting that cataclysmic or transformative events would occur on or around that time.  We have now officially survived the Mayans’ end-of-the-world prophecy for over a year!

Since then, the Philippines has faced a series of events that elicited a fusion of reaction from our countrymen – from shock and anguish to outrage and defiance. The past year has been one of the toughest in recent memory.  Our country was devastated by natural calamities. Earthquakes shook Bohol and Cebu. Powerful storms lashed at large swaths of the Visayas. On the political stage, the pork barrel scandal rocked the nation and brought the level of public loathing for some elected officials to a new low. Over in Mindanao, the siege of Zamboanga cast a pall over peace negotiations.

Through it all, Filipinos have remained steadfast, resilient and hopeful. The youth, particularly, still feel that they can hurdle the challenges and move onward to a brighter future.

With all these catastrophes still fresh in mind, several college freshmen got together to create a list of the top 10 things that they want for the country in the coming year. Like it or not, it is our generation that will be running the country in the near future, and it is because of this that we must be aware of what is going on beyond our comfort zone. The following wishes for the new year were chosen based on the issues that we, as young citizens, feel need to be addressed. 

 

Proudly Pinoy

Proudly Pinoy

1. We wish for more Filipinos to love and be proud of our country. The Philippines is highly visible on the international stage nowadays because of Filipinos who represent the country abroad — beauty queens, singers and athletes. When Filipinos see their kababayans competing or showcasing their talents onscreen, many show their full support because they want other countries to see the kagalingan or brilliance of the Filipino. Sadly, love for the country itself is dwindling. Due to factors that make the Philippines a Third World country (such as poverty), many people are quick to belittle our country and point out its flaws. Instead, more Filipinos need to understand that one way to show their pride is to find ways to fix these flaws. There are several ways to do so, but the most basic would be to be good citizens and to abide by the laws of the country.

Education is a right

Education is a right

2. We wish for education to be a right rather than a privilege by obtaining more funds for scholarships and subsidy for public schools (See http://budgetngbayan.com/summary-of-allocations/). It is a sad reality that a great percentage of Filipino children do not go to school because of poverty. For these children, it is a dream to even get a high school diploma. This should definitely not be the case, because education is a must in order to improve the state of the country. Last year, the Department of Education received the most out of the 2-trillion peso budget. We hope that this continues in the coming year, and that all of the money will be utilized to create more scholarships (for all levels of education) and to provide for increased subsidy for public schools.

3. We wish for people to have enough morality to choose to do what’s right and not only what’s legal. We wish that this year, people are guided by their own morality, or their own beliefs of what is right and wrong, instead of just working within what the law permits. The core of a society is its people, and this is why they should be able to make the right choices.

Boats as lifelines

Boats for Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ victims

4. We wish for increased funding for livelihood projects. As the (overused) proverb goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This in itself explains why livelihood projects are important. These are the kinds of projects that the government should be spending on because they equip people with skills that they can utilize.

5. We wish for an increased push for vocational and technical courses instead of “glamour courses”. (See http://planetphilippines.com/migration/a-disastrous-oversupply-of-unemployable-graduates/) For quite some time now, the country has been seeing an oversupply of unemployable graduates because more students are taking up “glamour courses”, or courses for more “high-profile” careers such as nursing and hotel and restaurant management (HRM). The urgent need for in-demand careers like respiratory therapists and cardio technicians needs to be stressed, and more students need to be informed of the various opportunities that could come with taking these kinds of courses. 

6. We wish for more awareness among Filipino citizens about issues such as the environment, the government, etc.  With social media becoming an integral part of almost everyone’s life, it is almost impossible to be ignorant of the issues that plague our country from day to day. We say this, and yet so many people seem to stay uninformed. This coming year, we really want more people to be socially and politically aware so that they can make more informed opinions that can hopefully lead them to act on these issues.

7. We wish for a nationwide public transport system. Having an extensive public transportation would make it easier for both citizens and tourists to go to and from places. It would be nice if we could emulate the public transportation system (trains) of Japan and Europe, where a web of trains can take people to different provinces. Extending our current rail lines such as the MRT and LRT could help in achieving this. Improving the trains we currently have (and adding to them as well) would help make it a long term thing.

Enough of the circus

Enough of the circus

8. We wish for the public to make more informed choices during elections. This could be done through public discussions of issues during the election campaign (media could spearhead such move). If people were more aware of the issues, they would be more likely to vote for someone based on their belief systems, and not based on who the lesser evil is. The election of more highly qualified officials would contribute to a more stable democracy, one that is more dependent on the quality of its institutions rather than the officials elected at present. This system would indirectly contribute to all the other stated wishes.

9. We wish for proper relocation of the slums, better urban planning (exclusive to designers/urban planners licensed in the field) and planning for communities/provinces in light of increased risk from natural disasters. Originally, we wished for the relocation schemes currently being carried out in the country to be improved, and for our cities to be better planned in order to solve the awful traffic situation. This wish was modified in light of the recent typhoon Yolanda that hit areas in the Visayas region. Most of the towns that were hit hard, such as Tacloban, Leyte, and Guiuan, Samar, are almost completely wiped out. Though it is unfortunate that so many people lost their homes, this also comes as an opportunity to rebuild these areas in a way that addresses the risks posed by various natural disasters.    

10. We wish for more Filipinos to open their eyes to the need for gender sensitivity, female empowerment and LGBT awareness. There are common misconceptions that we really wish would change in people’s minds — the downplayed role of women in society, the lack of opportunities for women job-wise especially in business leadership, and the misogynistic culture that still prevails to this day. Honestly, we have a long way to go before women’s rights in the Philippines truly become realized. The controversy over the Reproductive Health Law and the Divorce Bill says a lot about the rights women are expected to have. The same is true for members of the LGBT community, who are put in boxes and given predetermined roles in society (hairdressers, comedians) and are also deprived of rights as human beings.

Compiled by Gaby Gloria

Contributors: Olivia Villanueva (Ateneo de Manila University), Patricia Perez (University of the Philippines), Rocco Ongsiako (De-La Salle University), BP Valenzuela (ADMU), Camille Cervantes (UP), Miguel Gana (ADMU), and Gio Gloria (DLSU)

 

 

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PORK TALES

Current Affairs

PORK TALES

No Comments 30 December 2013

Among 2013’s most explosive stories, how multi-billion-peso public funds were so blatantly misused shocked and angered the nation. That the abuses involved public officials, obscure private individuals, and fake non-governmental organizations added to the outrage. How could corruption be masked so well? READ FULL STORY

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INVISIBLE SISTERS: WEAVING THEIR WAY OUT OF POVERTY

Current Affairs

INVISIBLE SISTERS: WEAVING THEIR WAY OUT OF POVERTY

No Comments 30 November 2013

By Gaby Gloria

At exactly 3:30 in the afternoon, with most of her household chores done, Nancy Surilla walks to the nearby barangay community center. There, other women from her barangay chat excitedly, sharing stories that range from daily experiences at home to the latest showbiz news. In one hand, each of these women hold golden instruments that are no larger than pencils, and no thicker than chopsticks, and in the other, long, colorful strips of plastic. As they chat, the women weave the golden instruments through the plastic strips, each creating a product that will eventually become a wallet or bag. Shortly after Nancy’s arrival, a young woman arrives and proceeds to teach them a new technique in the art of crochet.

Nancy, like the other women in the center, is part of the non-profit organization called Invisible Sisters. Founded in 2009 by American artist Ann Wizer, the Invisible Institute was a simple solution to the complex problems of poverty and garbage.

The Invisible Sisters crocheting clutch bags.

The Invisible Sisters crocheting clutch bags.

INVISIBLE trains and employs Filipino women from depressed communities to make crocheted bags out of waste such as the common plastic sando bags normally used in wet markets and commercial establishments.

Each week, these women attend a training session where an instructor introduces them to innovative techniques for preparing recycled plastic as raw material and executing various crocheting techniques. When they complete the 48-session program, INVISIBLE hires them to be part of the official production team that supplies sales outlets such as SM Kultura Filipino, Ayala Museum, and EchoStore.

The rate and production volume depend on each woman’s skill. Normally, a simple bag takes two to three days to finish and a clutch bag just a day. Smaller products such as wallets and key chains take a matter of hours. At present, 11 communities in Metro Manila serve as livelihood sites that contribute to the production for their sales outlets. These include barangays in Taguig, Paranaque, Quezon City and Manila.  

The organization’s name is fittingly about unseen people and unseen waste. The term “invisible” refers to two fundamental parts of the program. The first part refers to the materials they use, which are normally ignored because they are seen as trash or debris. The second refers to the employees –all are women like Nancy who are not part of the regular work force, women who are normally looked over by members of society.

When they started out, the women would collect plastic bags from creeks, esteros, and rivers, wash them, and cut them into strips to crochet. Their methods of collecting changed in 2011 when they partnered up with the Philippine Plastic Industry Association (PPIA) and Ayala Malls. As a result, plastic collection bins were set up in a Glorietta 5, Greenbelt, Trinoma, Market! Market! and some Ayala Residences buildings.

Samples of Invisible bags

Samples of Invisible bags

The collected plastic is then recycled by PPIA and given to INVISIBLE in large rolls of uniform colors. The plastic from the rolls is divided and distributed to the different livelihood sites to make the bags and wallets seen in stores.

In 2011, INVISIBLE partnered with its biggest supporter to date, GKonomics , the social enterprise development arm of Gawad Kalinga. The partnership led to the set up of their present office inside the GK building in Barangay Pinagsama, Taguig City. GKonomics also helps INVISIBLE with its marketing and training needs. Other big partners include the De La Salle College of St. Benilde (CSB), which provides training funds and helps with programs that address the needs of the women in terms of their livelihood, health, education, and personal development.

Training funds also come from companies such as Accenture Philippines, the Philippine Women’s Association-UK, and the Consuelo Foundation. There have also been partnership projects between INVISIBLE and two Philippine-based brands. INVISIBLE pouches were the packaging material for Silverworks jewelry, and shoe retailer Figlia sold INVISIBLE bags in their stores.

Over the years, more and more projects have been piling up for the organization. In 2013, they began to address the concerns of the women in terms of health, giving them free eye checkups and glasses. CSB has offered scholarships in courses for BS Marketing and Management which are currently open to Invisible women who are high school graduates. They are also working out a scholarship program with CSB to provide college scholarships to the children of the women.

It is with these actions that INVISIBLE hopes to educate consumers and to encourage them to take action themselves through simple ways such as recycling and throwing their trash in the right place.

INVISIBLE has definitely taken a big step forward in dealing with poverty and pollution, problems that plague Philippine society, with its array of colorful crocheted totes and pouches. With over 700,000 plastic sando bags recycled, over a hundred women hired, and thousands of products sold, INVISIBLE is set to take the world by storm; to set an example among the people of this world, reminding them that something can be done, no matter how big we think a problem is. 

For Nancy and women like her, the percentage of the profit they receive every time a bag they make is sold, has a huge impact on their daily life. The money they receive enables them to buy food for their families. Nancy and her invisible sisters no longer feel helpless or worthless — they have become relevant and useful members of society. And it is this they owe to the organization.  With their gold wands turning trash into beautiful objects, the Invisible Sisters are weaving a wonderful and practical solution to poverty and pollution, for communities all over Metro Manila.

 

 

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A GRIM, CHAOTIC COUNT

Current Affairs

A GRIM, CHAOTIC COUNT

No Comments 20 November 2013

Counting the dead in the Philippines is grim, slow, and frustratingly inexact work. On November 19, the Philippine government put the count at just under 3,982, but no one seemed to believe it would stay there. The United Nations warned that crews have still not reached some remote islands. READ FULL STORY

(See related story)

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‘WORSE THAN HELL’

Current Affairs

‘WORSE THAN HELL’

No Comments 14 November 2013

 A survivor of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) describes their condition as “worse than hell.” These images from CNN and New York Times capture the suffering and devastation from the world’s most powerful typhoon ever. Click links to view photos. Warning: the photo galleries contain graphic images.

CNN Photo Gallery    NY TIMES Photo Gallery

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CAN THE PHILIPPINES SAVE ITSELF FROM TYPHOONS?

Current Affairs

CAN THE PHILIPPINES SAVE ITSELF FROM TYPHOONS?

1 Comment 13 November 2013

For the third year in a row, the Philippines has been hit by a major storm claiming more than 1,000 lives, and the death toll from Haiyan, one of the worst on record, could climb to 10,000. With thousands of islands in the warm waters of the Pacific, the Philippines is destined to face the wrath of angry tropical storms year after year. READ FULL STORY

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WHEN HAIYAN STRUCK

Current Affairs

WHEN HAIYAN STRUCK

No Comments 13 November 2013

On November 8th, after Typhoon Haiyan hit, Helen Merino, a forty-four-year-old housemaid in Manila, tried to reach her parents in rural Barangay Tolingon, part of Isabel municipality in Leyte province. All power and communication lines were down, but somehow Facebook was accessible. READ FULL STORY

 

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