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How to Send Balikbayan Box to the Philippines: The Complete Guide

Sending balikbayan box to your loved ones in the Philippines is made easier through this complete balikbayan box guide.

What is a balikbayan box?

Balikbayan is a term which means a Filipino citizen returning to the Philippines from another country. Filipinos living abroad may not be able to go home to the Philippines for an occasion or visit. But the spirit of giving gifts to your loved ones and friends has been a practice, if not all, to most Filipinos.

On that note, a balikbayan box is a cargo box filled with a variety of items and then shipped to the Philippines via air or sea freight. Usual products in a balikbayan box include toiletries, apparel, non perishable food, and gadgets. Only products for PERSONAL and HOUSEHOLD use are allowed for duty and tax exemptions. The commodities should not be intended for commercial sale.

Since sending balikbayan boxes has become a tradition, it generates a big sum of income for the Philippines. From 2016 to 2022, Philippines’ Bureau of Customs declared a total of PhP 3.364 trillion (approximately $59 billion) in revenues.

Who can send balikbayan box to the Philippines?

Anyone who wishes to send a balikbayan box to the Philippines can do so but ONLY Qualified Filipinos While Abroad (QFWA) are exempted from duty and tax.

QFWA includes the following: 

  • Resident Filipino citizens that may hold student, investor, tourist, and/or similar visas that allow them to stay temporarily abroad.
  • Non-resident Filipinos with permanent residency abroad but have retained Filipino citizenship.
  • Overseas Filipino Workers with valid passports and certified by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for overseas employment.

How many times can you send a balikbayan box?

To be exempted from paying duties and taxes, QFWA can send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines up to 3 times in a calendar year (January 1-December 31 of the same year), and not exceeding P150,000 in total value. Any excess of these limits shall be liable to duties and taxes, and criminal liabilities.

What if the value of your balikbayan box is less than Php10,000?

If the value of your shipment is less than Php10,000.00, the sender can avail of De Minis Value. It means that your goods are duty and tax free even if you are not a QFWA.

And if you are QFWA sending a De Minis Value shipment, it won’t be counted as one of the 3 allowed tax and duty free shipments in a calendar year.

Tips how to pack your balikbayan boxes properly

There are several freight services you can find online. But always choose accredited and trustworthy providers. Contact and order online a balikbayan box from your chosen freight forwarder. You can also check its nearest pick-up location from your place.

Secure the bottom. Tape the bottom with a good quality packaging tape to avoid any water or spill to damage the box.

Line the bottom with plastic. Before putting your items inside the box, line it with a large garbage bag for additional waterproofing.

Start with clothes. Bubble wrap may take up your space. Instead, put clothes in first as a cushion and every after layer.

Take items out of the box. Boxes consume a lot of space. Take out the shoes, toys or bags from their boxes. Put them in a bag or use a cling wrap to secure any parts.

Label. To avoid your family and friends to scramble with the items, properly label each item with the name of who should receive it.

Secure bottles. Any bottles, lotion, toothpaste or liquid items should be properly sealed. Tape the lids tightly and put them in a plastic bag in case of spill.

Use vacuum bags. Although optional, using vacuum bags for clothes can free up your space significantly. Vacuum bags can be purchased online or at your local store.

Additional cushion on top. Add an extra layer of clothes and garbage bag before sealing the box.

Seal the box properly. Enclose the box with good quality packaging tape. Don’t forget to tape the sides too. Add another layer of duct tape on top and sides. Finally, seal it again with packaging tape for additional protection and waterproof.

Weigh your box. Most freight forwarders limit balikbayan boxes to 120-140 lbs depending on size. Though, some service providers don’t apply this limit as long as the box is sealed tightly and not heaping. Always check the weight limit with your freight forwarder.

Use permanent marker. Write the recipient’s name, address and contact number on the box using a black permanent marker. If possible, write on the tape to know if it is cut open.

What are the documents to prepare when sending a balikbayan box?

To make sure that only personal and household effects are shipped in a balikbayan box, the sender must prepare the following documents.

  1. Three fully accomplished copies  of  Information Sheet that you can acquire from www.customs.gov.ph, cargo service or value added service provider.
  2. Photocopy of Philippine passport page containing your personal information, photo and signature.

For dual Filipino citizens with no Philippine passport: Photocopy of foreign passport page containing personal information, photo and signature and a copy of proof of  dual citizenship

  1. Receipt, invoice or equivalent documents of the items, if available.

What are prohibited items in a balikbayan box?

While items shipped in a balikbayan box are not limited to apparel, goods and toiletries, some products are prohibited, restricted, or regulated to ship via air and sea. 

Prohibited Products

The following goods and products are prohibited for importation.

  1. Written or printed goods advocating or inciting treason, rebellion, insurrection, sedition against the government of the Philippines;
  2. Written or printed goods containing any threat to take life or cause any harm to any person in the Philippines;
  3. Goods, instruments, drugs and substances designed, intended or adapted for producing unlawful abortion, or any printed matter which advertises, describes or gives direct or indirect information where, how or by whom unlawful abortion is committed;
  4. Written or printed goods, negatives or cinematographic films, photographs, engravings, lithographs, objects, painting, drawings, or another  representation of an obscene or immoral character;
  5. Any goods manufactured in whole or in part of gold, silver or other precious metals or alloys and the stamp, brand or mark does not indicate the actual fineness of quality of the metals or alloy;
  6. Any adulterated or misbranded food or goods for human consumption or any adulterated or misbranded drugs in violation of relevant laws and regulations;
  7. Infringing goods as defined under the Intellectual Property Code and related laws;
  8. All other goods or parts thereof which importation are explicitly prohibited by law or rules and regulations issued by the competent authority.
  9. Used clothing and rags,
  10. Toy guns,
  11. Right-hand drive vehicles,
  12. Hazardous waste, even in transit into Philippine territory,
  13. Laundry and industrial detergents containing hard surfactants,
  14. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
  15. Used motorcycle parts, except engine; and,
  16. Live piranha, shrimp, and prawns.

Restricted Products

Importing of the following restricted items are prohibited except when authorized by the law or regulation.

  1. Dynamite, gunpowder, ammunition and other explosives, firearms, and weapons of war or parts thereof;
  2. Roulette wheels, gambling outfits, loaded dice, marked cards, machines, apparatus or mechanical devices used in gambling or the distribution of money, cigars, cigarettes or other goods when such distribution is dependent on chance, including jackpot and pinball machines;
  3. Lottery and sweepstakes tickets, except advertisements thereof and lists of drawings therein.
  4. Marijuana, opium, poppies, coca leaves, heroin, or other narcotics or synthetic drugs which are  or may hereafter be declared habit forming 
  5. Any compound, manufactured salt, derivative, or preparation thereof, except when imported by the government of the Philippines or any person duly authorized by the Dangerous Drug Board, for medicinal purposes;
  6. Opium pipes or parts thereof;
  7. Weapons of mass destruction and goods 
  8. Toxic and hazardous goods

Regulated Products

These are products and goods are subject to regulation but may be brought to the Philippines if they acquire the necessary permits, clearances, licenses and other requirements.

Regulated CommodityAgency Issuing Permits/Clearance
Essential Chemicals & Controlled Precursors; and Dangerous Drugs (Ketamine, Pseudoephedrine, Oripavine, Ameneptine, etc.)Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB)
Chemicals under the Philippine Priority Chemical List (PCL)Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Energy Resource Development Bureau (DENR-ERDB)
Cyanide, Mercury, Asbestos, Polychlorinated Biphenyl, Chlorofluorocarbon, and other ozone
depleting substances
 
Recyclable materials containing hazardous substances, i.e., scrap metals, solid plastic materials, electronic assemblies, and scrap, used oil, fly ash, and used lead acid batteries
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB)

Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Energy Resource Development Bureau (DENR-ERDB)
Coal, AnthraciteDepartment of Environment and Natural Resources – Energy Resource Development Bureau (DENR-ERDB)
WildlifeDepartment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB)
Live animals
Animal products and byproducts
Department of Agriculture (DA) – Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI)
Fishery and aquatic productsDepartment of Agriculture (DA) – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)
Plants, planting materials, and plant productsDepartment of Agriculture (DA) – Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)
Cane or beet sugar, and other artificial sweetenersSugar Regulatory Administration (SRA)
Chainsaws
Wood products
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Forest Management Bureau (FMB)
Semi-synthetic antibiotics (all form and salts of ampicillin, amoxicillin, and cloxacillin)
wheat flour; iodized salt; and all health products
Department of Health (DOH) – Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Color reproduction machines with 2,400 dots per inch (dpi) or higherNational Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Central Bank
Explosives, blasting agents, and detonators
Chemicals used as ingredients in the manufacture of explosives (e.g., chlorates, nitrates and nitric acid, etc.)
Philippine National Police (PNP) – Firearms and Explosive Office
All fertilizers, pesticides and other such chemical products intended for agricultural useDepartment of Agriculture (DA)-Fertilizer and
Pesticide Authority (FPA)
Used motor vehicles, trucks, and buses – including used parts and componentsDepartment of Trade and Industry (DTI) – Bureau of Import Services (BIS)
Used vehicles for the use of foreign diplomatic corps and accredited international organizationsDepartment of Foreign Affairs (DFA)
Aircrafts, engines, propellersCivil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP)
All types of ships not wooden hulled, including fishing vessels/boatsMaritime Industry Authority (MARINA)
All commodities originating from the following socialist and centrally planned economy countries: Albania, Angola, Ethiopia, Laos, Libya, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, and North KoreaPhilippine International Trading Corporation (PITC)
 
Source: https://www.trade.gov/knowledge-product/philippines-prohibited-restricted-imports

Note: Always ask your trusted cargo forwarders for a complete list of prohibited items to ship via air and/or sea.

Products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Health are allowed for importation if they meet the following requirements:

  1. Personal Use
  2. Brought in the Philippines through passenger baggage, balikbayan box or through mail
  3. Quantities not exceeding the limit below
ItemsQuantity Allowed
Childcare articles5 kgs
Toys10 pcs
Perfumes5 pcs
Lipstick 10 pcs
Shampoo2 kg
Lotion2 kg
Bar soap2 kg
Assorted cosmetics1 kg
Household hazardous substance (detergent, fabric conditioner, dishwashing liquid)5 kg
In-Vitro Diagnostic Products1 pc of each type
Medical devices 1 pc of each type
Over-the-counter drugs50 g
Prescription drugsquantity should correspond to the prescription
Vitamins, supplements500 g in total
Processed food10 kg
Wines/Liquor2 bottles not exceeding 1.5 L

How can I track my shipment?

After sending you balikbayan box through your freight forwarder, the biggest question would be what happens after. How is your shipment doing?

The Bureau of Customs developed an online tracker to know the status of your shipment. Just key in your Parcel Tracking Number or Balikbayan Box Tracking Number or Bill of Landing Number in the search box, then click the Search button.

You can also check your trusted cargo service providers for their online tracking system.

For more inquiries and information about sending balikbayan box to the Philippines, check out the Bureau of Customs website at https://customs.gov.ph/.

Before you go, please visit my other related blogs about living abroad:

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