By Loryjean Yungco
Thousands of Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong marched to the Philippine consulate on Sunday to protest against the Philippine government’s directive to tax packages they send home.
The parcels, known as balikbayan boxes, had been exempted from tax as they usually contain items of personal significance and as a show of respect for the role overseas migrant workers play in the Philippine economy.
Last year Filipino migrant workers remitted US$26.96 Billion, an increase of 6.7 percent on the previous year.
This comes in the wake of a worldwide “zero remittance” protest on the August 26 that saw Filipino overseas migrant workers stop sending money back to their families.
“Such taxation adds to the numerous added fees that Filipino migrants have been clamouring the government to reduce or scrap such as the Overseas Employment Certificate and the passport that is much higher overseas than in the Philippines”, said Vicky Casia-Cabantac of Migrante Partylist-HK.
The protesters handed over a letter, signed by almost 100 organisations in Hong Kong, calling on the Philippine government to recall the directive and demanding the resignation of Customs commissioner Alberto Lina, who they claim has depicted migrant workers as smugglers after illegal goods were allegedly confiscated by the Bureau of Customs.
The protesters have also called for a full account of the alleged illegal goods confiscated, and allege that smuggling syndicates are being aided by corrupt elements in the bureau.