US Department Homeland Security Balikbayan Box[box type=”default” size=”medium”] 30-day delivery is no longer possible, shippers say [/box]LOS ANGELES – With the port congestion in Manila worsening and inspections by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in US ports continuing, the delivery of balikbayan boxes  continues to be delayed for at least two weeks, a senior officer of the Philippine American Shippers Association (PASA) said.

“There is just no way balikbayan boxes could be delivered in the same period as before the DHS inspections and port congestion,” said Joel P. Longares, one of the founders and advisers of PASA, an LA-based organization of Filipino cargo forwarders in the United States.

LBC executive Patricia Garcia also aired the same concern, noting that “all cargo companies have been experiencing ‘crazy’ delays due to the truck ban and port congestion in Manila and the customs inspections here in the US.”

Longares, who is president and CEO of Atlas Shippers International, said that as a result of the delays, the earliest a balikbayan box could reach its destination in Metro Manila would be at least 45 days. For provincial deliveries, he said, it could take from 60 to 75 days.

“Balikbayan box senders should be wary of cargo companies promising no delays in deliveries,” he said. “In their desire to grab a piece of the business, these companies make promises that would be nearly impossible to fulfill. The reasons for the two- to three-week delays are definitely beyond the control of the cargo forwarders, and any company saying it can deliver in 30 days is fooling the customers.”

Longares said the mandatory physical inspection of all balikbayan boxes by DHS in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and other ports in the US results in delays because it takes another two to three weeks before the boxes can be loaded for shipping.

With the 21-day sailing time, it takes six weeks for the boxes to reach Philippine ports.

But the biggest problem now, Longares said, is the ongoing truck ban imposed by both the City of Manila and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).  The truck ban has resulted in massive backlog and congestion in both the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port. It has also extended the turnaround time of cargo trucks from the ports and back to three days, instead of the usual one day.

This has resulted in containers with the balikbayan boxes and other imported goods being stalled in the ports’ container yards and warehouses for another two to three weeks.

“The days of the 30-day delivery time from the senders’ door to the recipient’s door is gone,” Longares said. “The DHS and customs inspections may be around forever and it may take some time before Manila and MMDA officials realize the truck bans are causing a big dent on the Philippine economy.”

PASA is appealing to the public for patience and understanding. Longares said PASA is continually making representations with DHS to institute measures to expedite inspections, and with Manila and MMDA to lift or minimize the truck bans.

Longares said because of protests from business organizations, importers, exporters and logistics companies, Malacanang has promised to look into the problem. The Senate, he said, has also vowed to conduct its investigation to find ways to solve the nagging problem.

Meanwhile, LBC executive Garcia has issued an appeal to media to let the balikbayan box senders  know about the “big issue” causing the delays. Due to the hitches, it would be sad to have Christmas trees back home without the usual imported items, she said.

Garcia said that if Filipinos in North America want their balikbayan boxes reach their relatives in the Philippines before Christmas Day, they have to send them early.

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