It’s no surprise. If you (or someone you know) have ordered an item overseas, your initial worry would be the Bureau of Customs — which is btw the worst and most corrupt agency in the PH. They charge absurd taxes to the point that you’ll either not claim the package at all or waste time and effort to get an explanation of the questionable fees, but still end up paying since you badly need the item(s).
Seriously, who would want to pay taxes that are half or even higher than the price of what they bought? Nobody, right? Who in their right mind would say “yes” to that.
Order Timeline (from Japan to the PH)
Let me tell you a story why I don’t usually order items from Japan (like I’d rather go there and take home items that would occupy half of my luggage or ask a friend to buy it for me when they visit) and why I’m extremely disappointed with how things work in this country.
1. Last week of October/First week of November
I ordered albums and a DVD from CDJapan. I received a confirmation right away, but they sent an e-mail the next day, stating that they can’t process my orders because our office address isn’t being serviced by DHL. This is weird tbh. We never had a problem like this since we’ve been receiving packages (even from DHL) without a problem. Nonetheless, I gave them my home address.
According to my package’s tracking results, my order was picked up, processed, and shipped on Friday (from Japan). It arrived in Hong Kong (at their “Sort Facility”) the next day, was processed (clearance), and departed on the same day. It arrived in the PH (at “Sort Facility” again) on Sunday at noon, exactly 12:14 P.M.
2. Second week of November
After seeing the latest status of my package, I assumed I’ll be getting it by Monday (or Tuesday), but that didn’t happen. I didn’t get an update on Monday (not even on the tracking) until I got a call on Tuesday early afternoon. The reception was extremely bad when they called, so I asked them to send me an e-mail immediately instead. I said immediately, but I got the e-mail past 6 P.M. — and it got me furious.
A representative from DHL explains that I need to secure a clearance from the Optical Media Board (OMB) and if on the third day that my package isn’t shipped (from the date of arrival), they will charge a warehouse fee on the succeeding days. They weren’t that clear, so I had to research on my own (see below).
Of course, I sent a long reply. I got an e-mail after a few minutes and thought, “Wow. That was fast.” Unfortunately, it was a vacation responder. She said she can’t attend to my needs at the moment because her work schedule is from Monday to Friday during business hours.
Okay. That was understandable. They were kind enough to send attachments anyway, such as the invoice, a sample “Letter of Intent” (that I need to send to OMB), and a PDF of an OMB circular (why they’re asking for a clearance). The PDF file was long… and useless. It doesn’t apply to my case. At this point, we called them for an explanation. Our conversation didn’t go anywhere because, in the end, the person in line keeps on telling us to refer to the e-mail.
After some research, I found that I do need to secure a clearance. I sent an e-mail to OMB with all the requirements, got a reply after an hour that they received my request, and found out that I had to wait for three working days. Well, I got an e-mail exactly on the third day around lunchtime (Thursday), so that was a relief.
We called again to inform them, but they said they can only pick up the clearance the next day. Moreover, we’ll have to wait for one to two working days (Monday and Tuesday) for them to ship my package because they still have to claim it at the Customs. In short, I had to wait for six more days. Sigh.
4. Third week of November
I got a call on Wednesday from the delivery guy. He was already in our subdivision and is asking for confirmation about the directions to our house. He also asked if someone at home will pay the fees. When I wondered what fees they were, he was clueless about it and said there were many papers along with my package.
The taxes were absurd; it’s about half of the price of my package. As much as I don’t want to waste his time and effort, I told him not to send it to our home yet and I’ll try asking their office for an explanation.
We’ve been on hold, so I sent an e-mail to the same representative instead. I got a vacation responder again and it was only 4 P.M. Business hours are usually 9 A.M. to 6 P.M., right? Anyway, we gave up and tried calling the following day… but it was still the same case.
I got a notification that my package was shipped around lunchtime. Without any call, just like that, they delivered my package. My mom paid and when she asked why the fees were like that, the driver said that “we’ve already talked about it” with their office. As if that happened.
To sum it up: Would I order from CDJapan again? Yes. Would I choose DHL as a courier again? Probably not. I’ll stick with EMS or probably not order anything from overseas again.
Optical Media Board (OMB) Clearance
If you’re ordering CDs/DVDs/Blu-rays from overseas, make sure to limit them or else you might be asked to secure an Optical Media Board (OMB) clearance. It’s an old circular (2005), and it’s annoying when you have a warehouse fee to pay per day because it could take up to three working days to secure one.
Not to mention that you have to send an application before 3 P.M. (cutoff time) or else they’ll process it the next working day. There’s a processing fee worth 150php, too. If your courier isn’t kind enough, you’ll need to pick up the clearance personally from their office. A representative is okay as long as you give them a photocopy of your valid I.D. and an authorization letter.
Is there a way for you not to secure it? There is, according to OMB’s website:
2. Exemption. – Individuals or companies importing a single shipment, containing six (6) pieces or less of optical discs of different titles shall be exempted from this requirement, provided that there shall not be more than three (3) pieces of each title in said shipment. For avoidance of doubt, a multi-volume set under single title shall be considered as one (1) piece for the purpose of determining whether said shipment falls under this exemption. This exemption applies to optical discs, music cassettes and VHS tapes only, and does not apply to metal stampers, or any other equipment or items used in the production of optical discs.
To elaborate, if you bought a CD single with (1) one disc, a DVD bundle set with (3) three discs, and a concert in Blu-ray with (2) two discs, you’re exempted because the CD single, DVD bundle set, and Blu-ray concert (a total of six optical discs) all count as (1) one title. If you bought a DVD bundle set with (4) four to (5) five discs and an album with (2) two discs, then expect to get a call or an e-mail from your courier. Know if you’re exempted. Don’t be fooled.
What Can You Do?
1. Tell the courier to return the item and ask the sender for a refund. Check the return policy of the shop where you bought your item. If it’s from CDJapan, for example, you can still return the item/s within 30 days. You’d rather do this than pay those absurd taxes.
2. Tell the courier to return the item and ask the sender to ship it again using a different courier, like EMS or Registered SAL (Surface Air Lifted). This is an added expense, but if the taxes you’re expected to pay are bigger than another shipping fee, it’s worth the shot. Especially now that there’s a new Republic Act that forbids the Bureau of Customs from charging packages that are worth 10k below.
3. For multiple items: Tell the courier to return the items and ask the sender to ship them again through a different courier on separate packages, on different distant dates. This is asking for more work, but if the taxes you’re expected to pay are still bigger than two or three shipping fees, then do it if you badly want the items.
Disclaimer: These are all suggestions. I don’t want to be liable for anything if any of these don’t work for you. It’s still up to you whether you want to try these or not.
At first, I didn’t want to share this stressful experience on my blog, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been through the same situation. Money is money. We’re saving and working our asses off for it. They can’t expect us to be all obedient and say, “Taxes? Take my money!”