Philpost/Bureau of Customs Service Experience

9/23/2013 07:04:00 AM

Recently, I purchased prescription glasses online through Firmoo as recommended by a good friend. I am not new with online shopping, however it is my first time ordering from an international seller/website and having the item delivered here in the Philippines. My friend received her package at her doorstep without any problems, but it was different in my case. I finalized and confirmed my order last August 13, and was expecting my package to be delivered in a week or two via EMS. Instead of prescription glasses, I got a piece of card saying that I had to pick up the items as it was subject for Customs review. 

Almost all packages coming in to the Philippines, regardless of courier, is subject for Customs review. And so I was warned of the possible horror I might experience.  I live in Pasig and work at BGC. The Philpost office in Pasay is definitely out of my way.

I left BGC around 0730A, and arrived at my destination around 0800A. Cab fare was a little over Php170. First stop was the EMS window delivery unit in this building.

I was happy to see a few people waiting for their turn.

Everyone has to get a number through this window.

I was glad to be #10.

After waiting for less than 10 minutes, they gave me back the notice card with the number 14 written at the top left corner.

I honestly thought it was that easy. Turns out I would have to go to the next building where the Bureau of Customs Office was located.

I presented a valid ID and patiently waited for my turn together with these people and those who are sitting at my side of the waiting area. It was 0830AM. I looked around and counted, there were definitely more than 14 people around. Some of them were return claimants. Good thing I arrived early because I knew the returnees were prioritized.

Here's a Customs Officer in action.

Notice the piles of abandoned packages. I wonder what they would do to these items?

There was no airconditioning in the main area. Not to mention the possibility of a ceiling falling down on you.

An employee carefully slashed the top of my package. It was resealed as soon as the Customs officer finished examining the items. And then I was asked to sign the package as proof that I was present during inspection.

I waited for a while before being finally called to approach a desk, where the customs officer manually computed taxes I had to settle.

It was a good thing I used the tax calculator before hand. Click here to calculate yours. Click here to see the tax computation formula.

Cost of Goods: $38.75
Freight Cost: $18.75
Exchange Rate: Php43.764 (at the time of screen capture)
Total Duties and Taxes:  Php318.70
Customs Documentary Stamp: Php265
Import Processing Fee: Php250
Total: Php833.70

I actually payed for Php1,023 which was not very far from what the tax calculator had originally computed. Perhaps "Rate of Duty" and "Customs Duty" were the additional fees?

"Rate of Duty" depends on the product you purchased. I was told by the Customs Officer that Shoes, Clothing, Bags, and Gadgets are the chart toppers.

This was the first paperwork the Customs officer filled up.

Then he transferred everything he just wrote on the other sheet of paper to this statement.

After which I headed to the cashier (which thankfully was an air-conditioned room although located inside a small cramped-up area) and got a printed receipt.

Before claiming my package, I had to drop by the first desk again and was asked to pay Php50. I had no idea what it was for. At this point I was too tired I didn't bother asking.

I was lucky that the Customs Officer I dealt with was a very nice man. He was quite surprised  I didn't ask for a discount. At that point I didn't bother bargaining. I just wanted get it over and done with so that I could go home.

I checked out just a few minutes before 1100A. I was 14th in line but I spent almost 3 hours in queue. I can't help but cringe thinking that there were a couple of foreigners picking up packages. I saw them shaking their heads out of dismay. Way to go on making an impression Bureau of Customs!

Image courtesy of

Almost all of the employees in the office are wearing rubber thingys like these. I knew for a fact that their hands are already pasmado - having to manually write the whole day every single day is definitely taking a toll on their hands and fingers. No wonder majority of them are hot-headed, especially in the afternoon.

I paid almost Php4000 - that includes the frames, the lenses, shipping fees, and taxes.  Not that much savings, I know. And going through such an ordeal for two pairs of prescription glasses was definitely not worth it... Or at least I thought so until I finally got to see the items I purchased. Mom and I were very happy with our new frames!

I'm sure there is a way to automate this whole process. A software program may be a big investment, but it will definitely increase productivity, lessen corruption (hopefully), and decrease a claimant's transaction time. Someone in the government should look into this.

Just imagine the billions of Pesos Napoles took from us - that money could have been used to improve Government Services such as this.

Other things you need to know:
  • The EMS Customs office is open Mondays to Fridays from 0800A-0500P, but has a cut-off of 0400P.
  • If you want to go home early and not spend the whole day waiting in line - be there EARLY.
  • Consider bringing a relative who is a Senior Citizen, and have them transact in your behalf. Senior Citizens are given priority.
  • Be nice and courteous to everyone you are dealing with - this will somehow ensure you get fair treatment.
  • Be honest about the products you bought - giving the Customs Officer a run around or bogus stories may just increase your chances of paying higher as they may take advantage if they see an opportunity to do so.

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