Picture for Illustration purposes only


DUBAI – The word balikbayan is synonymous with balikbayan box, those ubiqitous cardboard boxes that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) use to ship gifts and other items in large quantities to families and relatives back home. Since the term balibayan was coined in the 1970s, millions of balikbayan boxes have been shipped to the Philippines from various parts of the world.

Here are important consumer tips shared by the Department of Trade and Industry regarding balikbayan boxes.

How does the service work? 

Filipinos living outside the Philippines pay a sea freight forwarder to ship their balikbayan boxes to the Philippines. These companies collect charges from the OFWs as senders. The charges include the fees for a shipping carrier, terminal storage, duties and charges, and the accredited local freight forwarder. When the boxes arrive in the Philippines, they are quickly delivered door-to-door to recipients. 

What items that should not be sent through balikbayan boxes?

The following items are not allowed to be included in the box:

  1. currencies, checks, money orders and traveler’s checks
  2. jewelries
  3. firearms, ammunitions and explosives
  4. prohibited drugs and other substances
  5. pornographic materials, gambling cards and toy guns
  6. pirated products in the form of dvd, cd, tapes, etc
  7. items of commercial quantity

What are the tips in shipping balikbayan boxes?

The following are few tips to ensure that your balikbayan boxes reach its destination.

  1. Organize the contents of your balikbayan box.
  1. Book your balikbayan boxes only with Philippine Shippers’ Bureau-accredited sea cargo consolidator / freight forwarder companies with clean records.
  1. Be wary of exceptionally low rates.
  1. Declare the contents of your shipment.
  1. Secure transport documents such as cargo receipt (or Official Receipt) for fees paid, and Bill of Lading – a document issued by a transportation carrier to the shipper as proof that they have received the cargo shipment and have placed them on board a particular vessel for delivery to a particular destination.
  1. Get the name and contact details of the forwarder’s agent in the Philippines.
  1. Monitor the movement of your cargo from origin to destination to make sure it is being shipped and delivered.
  1. Inform your consignee to check your cargo with the Philippine freight forwarding agent even before it arrives.
  1. If you encounter pilferage or lost item, or non-delivery, file an immediate claim or complaint with the freight forwarder’s customer service. You may also lodge your complaint directly to the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau at 2nd Floor, DTI Bldg., 361 Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City or fax at (02) 751.3305 or email or call DTI-Direct (02) 751.3330 or 0917.834.3330 for assistance. 

What is the common problem about balikbayan boxes?

There are instances when foreign consolidators or principal sea freight forwarders do not remit a portion of their collected charges to their accredited Philippine agents or local sea freight forwarders to prompt the release and delivery of balikbayan boxes.

When necessary funds are not remitted to accredited Philippine agent or local freight forwarders, the shipments or the balikbayan boxes with the Bureau of Customs will not be released and will not be delivered to consignees or recipients.   

What are the common complaints?

Most of the complaints on balikbayan boxes are:

  • undelivered balikbayan boxes
  • pilferage of balikbayan box
  • overcharging
  • damaged cargo 

What office or agency addresses this issue?

The Philippine Shippers’ Bureau (PSB) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) operates the accreditation scheme for sea freight forwarders. The DTI-PSB holds both the foreign consolidator and its Philippine agent or freight forwarder jointly and severally liable for the delivery of cargoes to the consignees.

If the Philippine agent/freight forwarder holds delivery of balikbayan boxes because its foreign principal fails to remit the necessary funds therefore, what can DTI-PSB do to help the consignees?

DTI-PSB shall order the Philippine agent/freight forwarder to deliver the cargoes to their rightful owners (consignees) without any delay. Failure of the Philippine agent/freight forwarder to deliver the cargoes immediately shall constrain DTI-PSB to file a Formal Charge against the freight forwarder for the revocation of its accreditation (if the forwarder is PSB-accredited) or a Cease and Desist Order (if the forwarder is not PSB-accredited) as well as applicable fines.

How does one file a complaint with DTI-PSB? 

Complainants should submit a written complaint with documentary evidences such as official receipts, cargo receipts, bills of lading, shippers’ declaration and way bills. They can file their complaints either at PSB Office or fax at (02) 751.3305 or email at or call (02) DTI Direct at 751.3330.

What penalties may DTI-PSB impose on freight forwarders violating PSB policies on balikbayan boxes?  

PSB may impose monetary fines, suspension or cancellation of accreditation. 

Where are most balikbayan boxes coming from? 

OFWs and other Filipinos living abroad from these countries have the large number of packages sent through balikbayan boxes.

  1. Middle East (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar)
  2. USA
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Singapore
  5. Italy
  6. UK
  7. Korea
  8. Taiwan

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