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In the ber-months, Filipinos are getting into the holiday spirit and one of the ways that OFWs prepare is stocking up on “pasalubong” for their loved ones back home. With precautionary measures taken by the current administration of the Philippines in the battle against illegal drugs, balikbayan boxes that are being shipped in the same ports are being subjected to inspections by customs or the military due to suspicions of smuggling. However, there are also instances that during shipment of cargo, there are malicious people who steal your goods and your box ends up damaged.

According to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the most common complaints that they receive regarding balikbayan boxes are:

  1. Non-Delivery – for some reason the package does not reach the recipient (act of nature, public authority or enemy, nature of goods and shipper’s default).
  2. Loss – the consolidator fails to deliver the package because it has gone missing during freight.
  3. Pilfered – this may happen when someone directly involved in handling the package steals the contents of the package (may happen during freight or when going through inspections). 
  4. Damaged – usually due to issues during freight such as careless handling, poor packaging or pilferage that the package conditions become compromised.

While not a lot of lawyers are willing to take on cases related to claims on their balikbayan boxes, there are options to rectify against dubious forwarders. Once proven that the freight forwarders violated the DTI’s existing policies, their licences and accreditation may be revoked through a Cease and Desist Order. Furthermore, they may have an administrative fine of Php50,000 imposed on them.

Losing your Balikbayan Box can be the most devastating news to hear after working hard all year long to fill it up, only to have it go “missing.” Don’t abandon all hope, because there is still a chance to recover the fruits of your labor. 

Here are 10 steps you need to do when your Balikbayan Box is lost: 

PREVENTION

1. Anybody can set up a business, but trust and legitimacy must be built and earned. In order to avoid putting yourself at risk, you should only do business with someone who meets all these criteria. For your reference, DTI listed a catalog of the accredited seafreight forwarders around the world.

2. Stay on high alert for potential scams and frauds. These often happens through impostors offering a too-good-to-be-true promotion with exceptionally low rates, only to have them steal your money and goods in the end.

3. Once you do find a reliable forwarder, have a complete list of all the contents in your balikbayan box, detailed with size and quantity. Make sure when filling out the application form, both information are identical. This is to ensure that everyone involved (you, forwarder, customs and recipient) are aware, with hard proof, of what is to be expected once it arrives to the recipient’s destination.

4. Afterwards, perform all the necessary packing and labeling on your balikbayan box. Make it as damage-proof as possible by taping the corners. Don’t forget to follow our guidelines on how to properly pack your Balikbayan Box.

5. Secure all of the important files (original and duplicate), such as forms, receipts, House Bill of Lading and any other form of transaction for your records. These can be used as documentation to track progress and for insurance purposes.

6. Keep in contact with your local forwarder as well as the consolidator’s agents in the Philippines with your recipients to stay aware of every progress that your shipment is going through. Get their name and contact details, confirm their identities with the companies they represent. Other than keeping contact, monitor your actual shipping by tracking them using shipment details provided by the freight forwarder.

IN THE EVENT OF ACTUAL LOSS

7. File your claims and complaints to the Business Licensing and Accreditation Division, Mediation Division and the Adjudication Division of DTI’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) as they handle issues regarding balikbayan boxes. Be sure to attach the important files that you secured before shipping.

Note: You can contact them via email at  fteb@dti.gov.ph or call DTI Direct at (02)751-3330 / 0917-8343330.

8. For missing items, have your receiver inspect the delivered package for damages in the packaging from punctures or piercing. Have them determine what was damaged, stolen or missing by referring to the item list.

9. The company representative or delivery personnel should be cooperative as it is a part of their responsibilities that the customers are satisfied with the service. Do not be intimidated by those who give attitude and do everything necessary to document the claims. Have the receiver list down and take photos where needed because these are essential to give the forwarders and proper authorities in filing a claim.

Note: Do not refuse or discard their delivery, instead file for return or shortage statement. This is important in claiming the amount of the freight.

10. Fill out the correct forms for claims in order to reimburse damaged or lost goods; and have the carrier accept the claim within time frame, so insurance can be processed.

There is no guarantee the cost of boxes will be recovered or that the cargo company will be held liable by the proper authorities. In Metro Box Cargo, we implement quality above all and offer up to $500 of maximum insurance. Your balikbayan boxes will be delivered on time and handled with care because we know how much it means to you that they reach your loved ones.