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[box type=”default” size=”large”] Firearm parts in box seized; cops arrest claimant [/box]

COVINA, California — A top Filipino freight forwarder has warned anew balikbayan box senders against placing contrabands and other prohibited items in their shipments.

The warning was issued shortly after the recent seizure of high-caliber firearms concealed in a balikbayan box that came from California.

“We will not tolerate illegal acts in the shipment of balikbayan boxes,” said Joel P. Longares, president and CEO of the Covina-based Atlas Shippers International, said to be one of the biggest Filipino cargo companies handling balikbayan box shipments to the Philippines.

Atlas Shippers fully cooperated with the Department of Homeland Security in the United States and the Bureau of Customs in the Philippines in the discovery and seizure of the firearms and the eventual arrest of the sender.

The prohibited items found inside the box were the following: 35 pieces of trigger housing assembly, 60 pieces of upper receiver, 15 pieces of batter spring lock, 10 pieces of barrel assembly M16, one piece rail without barrel, one piece rail with M16 barrel with piece suppressor, 15 pieces of butt assembly, 15 pieces of buffer spring guide, five pieces of quick detach scope mount and two pieces of bottle opener.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) said the balikbayan box was sent by a certain Maiko Claridad of California and was consigned to a businessman named Leo Mendieta of Bacolod City.

Authorities monitored the shipping of the balikbayan box from Atlas Shippers warehouse in Las Pinas City to its Bacolod City warehouse on Aug. 4 and waited for its claimant.

On Aug. 6, police arrested Mendietta, whose real name is Brian C. Ta-Ala, and his aide Wilford Z. Palma while they were claiming the illegal shipment, BOC said.

“We all fought last year for a stop to the mandatory inspection of balikbayan boxes, which not only resulted in damage to the boxes and the loss of some items, but also to long delays in delivery. Now, because of the actions of a few unscrupulous individuals, we may see rigid inspections again,” Longares lamented.

Philippine Customs Commissioner Nick Faeldon warned the public against abusing the privilege of sending tax and duty-free goods by OFWs through balikbayan boxes. Longares reminded balikbayan box senders to be aware of the list of items prohibited by both the customs officials in the US and in the Philippines.

“The consequences of sending illegal and prohibited items through balikbayan boxes, such as guns and drugs, intentionally or innocently, could be disastrous, especially under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has launched an aggressive campaign against crime and corruption,” Longares said.

He said the list of prohibited items may be found at the Atlas Shippers’ website,