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Customs FAQs on Importation

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Chapter 1:       Importation

Chapter 2:       Privileges

Chapter 3:       Duty-Free Shopping

Chapter 4:       Motor Vehicles, Boats & Yachts

Chapter 5:       Pet/Animals & Household Plants

Chapter 6:       Prohibited/Restricted Importations

Chapter 7:       Balikbayan Boxes

Source:           Bureau of Customs website (, accessed on 17 Sep 2015.

Chapter I. Importation

  1. What articles are subject to duty?

All articles, when imported to the Philippines, are subject to duty upon each importation, even though previously exported there except as otherwise specifically provided for in the Tariff and Customs Code, as amended, or in other laws.

  1. When does importation begin and deemed terminated?

Importation begins when the carrying vessel or aircraft enters the jurisdiction of the Philippines with the intention to unlade therein. Importation is deemed terminated upon payment of the duties, taxes and other charges due upon the articles, or secured to be paid, at a port of entry and the legal permit for withdrawal shall have been granted, or in case said articles are free of duties, taxes and other charges, until they have legally left the jurisdiction of Customs.

  1. Who are authorized to make import entry?

The following are authorized to make import entry:

  • Importers and other persons who are holders of the bill of lading
  • Licensed Customs broker acting under authority from a holder of the bill.
  • A person duly empowered to act as agent or attorney-in-fact for each other.

(The duly notarized power of attorney should be approved by the Port Collector and no more than such continuing power may be accepted or recognized)

  1. When to file an entry?

Entry must be filed in the Customhouse within 30 days from the date of discharge of the last package from the vessel, which shall not be extendible. Failure to file the entry constitutes implied abandonment and will result in the ‘ipso facto’ forfeiture of the goods/shipment.

  1. What articles are subject to duty?

There are two kinds of import entry, to wit: Formal and the Informal Entry.

  • Informal Entry
  • Articles of a commercial nature intended for sale, barter or hire, the dutiable value of which does not exceed P2,000.00
  • Personal and household effects or articles, not in commercial quantity, imported in passenger’s baggage, mail, or otherwise for personal use.
  • Formal Entry
  • Articles of a commercial nature intended for sale, barter, or hire, the dutiable value of which is more than P2,000.00
  • Articles for, which the Collector may, upon the recommendation of the Tariff Commission for the protection of a local industry, or the revenue, require formal entry regardless of value and whatever purpose and nature of the importation.
  • All imported articles are subject to Formal and Informal entry except importation admitted free of duty for the official use of embassies, legation and other agencies of foreign governments who accord like privileges to corresponding agencies of the Philippines.

Chapter II. Privileges

  1. Who are entitled to duty- and tax-free privileges?

Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines as amended by Executive Order No. 206 provides duty- and tax-free privileges to the following individuals, the extent of which depends on their particular status:

  • Returning Resident. A Returning Resident is a Filipino national who has gone abroad and is now returning. Only those Returning Residents who have an uninterrupted stay abroad for at least six (6) months prior to their return to the Philippines are entitled to duty- and tax-free privileges.
  • Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) is a Filipino national who worked in a foreign country under an employment contract. Only OFWs who have an uninterrupted stay abroad for more than six (6) months are entitled to duty- and tax-free privileges.
  • Former Filipino. A Filipino national who has acquired foreign citizenship abroad and is now returning. Only former Filipinos who are coming to settle permanently in the Philippines and have stayed abroad for at least six months are entitled to the duty and tax exemption privileges.
  1. Are Balikbayans also entitled to certain duty- and tax-free privileges?

Balikbayan is another term for an OFW or a former Filipino. A returning resident is also a Balikbayan when he has stayed abroad for at least one year. Balikbayans are entitled to duty- and tax-free privileges.

  1. What is the extent of duty- and tax-free privilege of returning Filipinos/Balikbayans?

The extent varies, as follows:

  • Returning Resident. Personal effects and household goods used by him abroad for at least six months and the dutiable value of which is not more than PHP 10,000.00 are exempt from duties and taxes. Any amount in excess of PHP 10,000 is subject to 50% duty to the first P10,000 exemption across the board as provided for under Section 105 (F) of the TCCP.
  • Overseas Filipino Worker. In addition to the privileges granted to Returning Residents as described above, an OFW may be allowed to bring in, duty- and tax-free PHP 10,000 of USED home appliances, provided:
  • the quantity is limited to one of each kind;
  • the privilege has not been enjoyed previously during the calendar year which fact must be declared under oath by the owner;
  • the owner’s passport is presented at the port/airport of entry;
  • any amount in excess of P10,000.00 will be subject to duty and tax.
  • Former Filipino. Professional instruments and implements, tools of trade occupation or employment, wearing apparel, domestic animals, and personal household effects shall be exempt from payment of Customs duties and taxes. Provided that the change of residence was bonafide, the privilege of free entry was never availed of before and that the articles are brought from their former place of abode.
  1. Are family members of returning residents, OFWs and former Filipinos also entitled to certain privileges?

Yes, provided they themselves satisfy FAQs Chapter 1′s first three points

  1. What are the conditions and limitations attached to tax exemption privileges?

The following are the conditions for availment of duty and tax privileges;

  • Presentation to the Bureau of Customs of a favorable written endorsement which department controls the availment of duty- and tax-free exemptions.
  • The goods extended duty- and tax-free privilege are not to be sold, bartered nor traded.
  • The quantity is not commercial.
  • The goods are not prohibited importations. (See Chapter VI. Prohibited/Restricted Importations)
  • For regulated items, endorsements from the proper regulatory agency. (See Chapter V. Pet/Animals & Household Plants)

Chapter III. Duty-Free Shopping

  1. What are duty free stores?

Duty-free stores are retail establishments licensed by the government to sell duty- and tax-free merchandise for the convenience of travelers. Government earns revenues from these stores which are utilized to defray tourism and related projects.

  1. Where are these stores located?

Those operated by the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) are generally located at Fiesta Mall Shopping Center and NAIA. The following are the existing stores:

  • Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Pasay City Departure Lounge Arrival Area, Arrival Ramp Extension
  • Fiesta Mall Shopping Center, Ninoy Aquino Ave., Parañaque
  1. What are special economic zones?

Special Economic Zones are selected areas with developed infrastructure or which have potential to be developed into agri-industrial tourist/recreational, commercial, banking, investment, financial centers. Duty- and tax-free flow of goods are allowed provided such goods are consumed therein. Once these goods are brought out of the ecozones, they become subject to applicable duties and taxes.

  1. Who are entitled to duty free shopping privileges?

All passengers arriving from abroad are entitled, subject to the limitation in A2.6 and the conditions in A2.7.

All passengers arriving from abroad can avail of the privilege within 48 hours from date of arrival, upon presentation of valid passport, flight ticket and boarding pass.

  1. What are the limits to duty free privileges?

Limits as to amount:

  • Balikbayans: 18 years old & above = USD 2,000;
    Minors (below 18 years) = USD 250.
  • All other Passengers: 18 years old & above = USD 1,000;
    Minors (below 18 years) = USD 250.

Limits as to quantity:

  • Cigarettes: two (2) reams
  • Tobacco: two (2) tins
  • Liquor and/or wine: two (2) bottles
  • Non-consumable items of each kind whose value exceeds USD 200: only one
  1. Can a frequent traveller avail of the privilege everytime he/she travels?

Yes, but the total purchase for any calendar year must not exceed Ten Thousand US Dollars (USD 10,000.)

  1. What are the conditions attached to duty free shopping?

The duty-free shopping shall be subject to the following conditions:

  • Purchase shall only be made in the United States dollars (USD ) or other acceptable foreign currencies;
  • Purchases shall be made within forty-eight (48) hours from date of arrival;
  • The privilege is non-transferrable. Purchases shall be made personally by the passenger himself;
  • The Balikbayan privilege can be availed of only once a year and if the Balikbayan arrives again within the year, he/she will be considered a regular passenger for shopping purposes;
  • A minor can purchase consumable items only. A minor cannot purchase liquors, wines, cigarettes, electronics, and home appliances;
  • A tourist can purchase electronics and home appliances but the purchases shall be subject to payment of duties and taxes.

Chapter IV. Motor Vehicles, Boats & Yachts

  1. Can anyone bring in a motor vehicle?

Yes, provided that the motor vehicle is brand new. Under Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Circular 92, Series of 1995, dated 15 October 1995, the importation of a brand-new motor vehicle of all types, including motorcycles, has been liberalized and no longer require prior authority to import.

  1. When is a motor vehicle brand new?

A motor vehicle is brand new if and only if the following criteria are satisfied:

  • The motor vehicle is of current or advance year model;
  • It has never been registered or used;
  • It is covered by a certificate of first ownership;
  • Of the year of the immediate preceding year in the country of origin and/or manufacture provided that the motor vehicle:
    • has a mileage of not more than 50 kilometers and;
    • has been acquired by the importer from the dealer as first owner.
  1. How about motor vehicles not of current or advance year model?

They shall be processed as in used motor vehicle.

  1. What about used motor vehicles?

Only qualified individuals may bring in a used motor vehicle which shall be covered by a prior authority to import. Under appendix 1-D of BSP Circular-Letter, Series of 1995, dated October 19, 1995, the importation of used vehicles continues to be regulated and requires prior authority from the Bureau of Import Services (BIS), DTI.

  1. Who is qualified to import used motor vehicles?

Under Sec.3 of E.O.156 and Sec.1, Part II of the Implementing Guidelines, the following are allowed to import used motor vehicle under the No-Dollar Import Program:

  • Returning Resident – a Filipino citizen who has stayed in a foreign country for at least 1 year and which residency shall be accumulated within the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of filing of the application.
  • Immigrant – a person issued any of the following types of visa under the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended:
  • A Filipino citizen and a holder of 13G Visa; or
  • A foreign national married to a Filipino and a holder of 13A Visa;
  • A Filipino citizen and holder of 47A and 47A2 issued to awardees of Special Government Project/s (SPG), e.g. Philippine Retirement Authority and Balik-Scientist Program.

Provided that:

  • The vehicle has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) not exceeding three (3) tons;
  • It is covered by an authority to import (Certificate of Authority to Import) issued under the No-Dollar Importation Program by the Bureau of Import Services (BIS) ;
  • It is personally owned and registered under the name of a returning resident or immigrant at least six (6) months prior to the date of application for permit to import with the BIS ;
  • It is for personal use;
  • It cannot be resold for at least three (3) years.
  1. Is personal presence of the car-owner necessary?

Personal presence by the car-owner of the used motor vehicle is required.

  1. Is there any other restriction on the motor vehicle that may be brought in?

Yes. Whether brand-new or not, the motor vehicle should be left-hand drive.

  1. Is the imported vehicle subject to taxes and duties?

Yes. Whether brand-new or used, purchased or donated, the imported vehicle is subject to 40% Customs duty, 10% VAT and Ad Valorem Tax from 15% to 100% depending on its piston displacement. Its book value serves as the tax base and not the purchase price nor the acquisition cost. The book value is sourced from universally accepted motor vehicle reference books such as the Red Book, Blue Book, World Book depending on the origin of the imported vehicle.

  1. Are spare parts sent with the motor vehicle also taxable?

Yes. These are taxed separately.

  1. How can we inquire the taxes and duties payable?

By writing and providing information about the vehicle as to the make, brand, year model, piston displacement, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or chassis number or sending a copy of the registration to:

Valuation Center & Library Bureau of Customs
South Harbor, Manila and One Stop Processing Center
Motor Vehicle
Manila International Container Port
North Harbor, Manila

  1. Are there other charges aside from taxes and duties?

Yes. There are other non-customs charges that may be due on the shipment such as: storage and arrastre fees which may be collected by the privately-owned arrastre operator; by the shipping line and wharfage dues by the Philippine Ports Authority.

  1. How important is the prior import authority (pia)?

It is very important if the vehicle would not qualify as brand-new as herein defined. A used motor vehicle not covered by PIA shall be seized and may only be released upon payment of heavy penalties on top of the taxes and duties due thereon.

  1. How is PIA obtained?

By submitting to BIS a duly accomplished application form which may be obtained from it and the following documents duly authenticated by the nearest Philippine Consulate abroad where the car-owner resides:

  • Proof of his continuous stay abroad for at least one (1) year;
  • Copy of the registration papers showing that the vehicle is registered in his name for at least six (6) months;
  • Proof that the car was acquired out of the earnings abroad.
  1. Where is the BIS located?

The address is as follows:

Bureau of Import Services
3rd Flr., Welding Industries of the Philippines Building
Makati City, Metro Manila
Tel. No. (632)895-7466

  1. Is depreciation in value accorded to imported vehicles?

Yes, if the imported motor vehicle is an older model or an earlier than the current year model. The depreciation schedule is 10% per year counted downwards from current year which has a depreciation rate of zero percent (0%). Motor vehicles with a piston displacement of 2000 cc and above may be given a maximum depreciation of 50%, while those below 2000 cc, up to the maximum of 70%.

  1. Is the importation of motor vehicle subject to pre-shipment inspection (psi) by sgs in the country of exportation?

Under Joint-Order 1-91, individually owned motor vehicle is not subject to pre-shipment inspection by SGS. The importation thereof need not be covered by a Clean Report of Findings (CRF) issued by SGS. Non-individually-owned vehicles or those imported for commercial purposes should therefore undergo PSI and their importation should be covered by CRF.

  1. How long does it take to clear motor vehicle importations from customs?

Given a complete documentation, clearance for the release of the imported vehicle in the One Stop Processing Center (OSPC) takes place within forty-eight (48) hours from the filing of Customs entry.

  1. Are importations of boats, yachts and motorized farm implement allowed?

Yes, subject to payment of taxes and duties.

Chapter V. Pet/Animals & Household Plants

  1. Are there restrictions or conditions to the entry of pets/animals and household plants?

Yes, there are quarantine and regulatory agency restrictions and conditions to the importations of pets/animals and household plants.

  1. What is the veterinary quarantine requirement prior to the shipment of pet animals?

A health certificate must be obtained from the concerned government agency at the port of origin. The certificate will be required by the Veterinary Quarantine Officer at the airport/port of disembarkation. Any pet without such a certificate will be detained by Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) until cleared.

For pet fishes, in lieu of a health certificate, a prior import permit must be obtained from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

  1. Are there requirements prior to shipment of household plants?

Yes, a Phytosanitary Certificate must be obtained from the concerned Government Agency at the port of origin and presented to the plant Quarantine Officer. Plants arriving in the country without this certificate as well as those falling in the alert list may be detained.

  1. How about commercial shipment of animals, plants and their products/by products?

For the pertinent rules and regulations on commercial shipment of animals, plants and their products/by-products, write to:

The Bureau of Animal Industry
Visayas Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City


Bureau of Plant Industry,
692 San Andres, Malate,Manila

Chapter VI. Prohibited/Restricted Importations

  1. What are prohibited/regulated importations?

Prohibited importations are generally those not allowed to be brought into the country except when given permission under high controlled conditions as provided for in the laws prohibiting them. Some of these prohibited items are the following:

  • Dynamite gunpowder, ammunitions and other explosives, firearms and weapons of war, and parts thereof;
  • Written or printed articles in any form containing any matter advocating or inciting treason, or rebellion, insurrection, sedition or subversion against the government of the Philippines, or containing any threat to take the life of, or inflict bodily harm upon any person in the Philippines.
  • Written or printed articles, negatives or cinematographic film, photographs, engravings, lithographs, objects, paintings, drawing or other representations of an obscene or immoral character.
  • Articles, instruments, drugs and substances designed, intended or adapted for producing unlawful abortion, or any printed matter which advertises or describes or gives directly or indirectly information where, how and by whom unlawful abortion is produced. 

Chapter VII. Balikbayan Boxes

  1. What are “Balikbayan Boxes”?

Balikbayan Boxes are packages of personal effects and/or “pasalubongs” sent by Filipinos residing or working abroad to their families or relatives in the Philippines to enhance Philippine tradition and culture for the promotion and preservation of strong family ties through love and caring expressed in gift-giving.

  1. What are allowed in “balikbayan boxes”?

Non-commercial goods or goods not in commercial quantity strictly for personal use only, such as: wearing apparel, clothing, foodstuffs/grocery items/canned goods; the value of which must not exceed USD 500.00.

  1. How often can Filipinos residing or working abroad send a Balikbayan Box to their families and relatives in the Philippines?

One consignor/sender is allowed to send one (1) box during a six (6) -month period.

  1. What is a consolidated door-to-door shipment?

Two (2) or more Balikbayan Boxes from two (2) or more individual consignors/senders abroad, assembled and consolidated at one point of origin/exportation and shipped together under a single master ocean bill of lading or master airway bill by a freight forwarder/consolidator to its breakbulk/consolidator agent in the Philippines.

  1. Who is allowed to consolidate Balikbayan Boxes abroad?

A foreign freight forwarding entity/ consolidator duly licensed and registered with the Philippine consular office.

  1. Who is allowed to release a consolidated door-to-door shipments from the Philippine Bureau of Customs?

The Philippine agent/representative of a freight forwarder/consolidator named in a master bill of lading or master airway bill as consignee of a consolidated shipment duly licensed by the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau (PSB) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

  1. Are the Balikbayan Boxes opened by the Philippine Customs?

Yes, a 100% examination of the consolidated shipment is required by law:

  • To protect the legitimate interests of consignors/senders and their consignees, in particular, and the transacting public, in general;
  • To protect the interest of the government;
  • To prevent and suppress smuggling and other fraud upon customs.
  1. Where can we check and verify the list of legitimate and philippine shippers’ bureau-accredited freight forwarders/brokers?

Verification can be made with the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau (PSB) under the Department of Trade and Industry on their website: or by calling these numbers during office hours: (632) 7513304 or (632) 7513307, contact person: Mr. Jun Bernal.

  1. Who delivers the Balikbayan Boxes to the ultimate consignees/recipients?

The Philippine agent/representative of a freight forwarder/consolidator named in a master bill of lading or master airway bill as consignee of a consolidated shipment duly licensed by the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau (PSB) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and/or a local delivery company hired by the Philippine agent.

  1. What causes the delay/non-delivery of the boxes to their ultimate consignees?

Any of the following can cause delays/non-delivery of “balikbayan boxes” to their ultimate consignees:

  • Unforseen circumstances and/or natural calamity like typhoon that sets back the arrival of cargo carrying vessels;
  • Consolidated shipments are tainted by:
  • Undeclared and/or misdeclared goods;
  • Banned or regulated cargoes like firearms and ammunitions, prohibited drugs, pornographic materials, gambling materials/apparatus;
  • Goods in commercial quantity;
  • Consolidated shipments that are abandoned by the Philippine agent/ representative/ broker for reasons of non-remittance of funds by the foreign freight forwarding entity/ consolidator.
  1. Are completely-knocked down (CKD) motorcycles or part of motor vehicles (also known as chop-chop motorcycles or vehicles) that are for personal use, allowed in Balikbayan Boxes?

No, these are not allowed in Balikbayan Boxes. These are not considered personal effects or household good and are thus treated differently; other documentary requirements are needed for these to be brought into the Philippines without which these vehicles cannot be registered with the land Transportation Office (LTO).

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