I lost my faith in the International Express Mail Service (EMS) in the Philippines. And lost a certain amount of faith in the country in the process.
I had two packages sent from abroad to the Philippines, worth $17 each. Both were sent on the same day. One was delivered right at my doorstep, and was paid P35.00.
The other package didn’t arrive. Instead, I received a parcel notice from EMS, informing me that I need to pick up the package at the EMS head office near the domestic airport in Pasay City.
It is the dreaded parcel notice — sent to unsuspecting recipients when your parcel has caught the eye of an EMS vulture. I mean, employee.
Sure enough, I was told that I needed to pay “taxes” worth P4,000 ($90). It didn’t matter to them that then pen was worth $17, and looked like it. It didn’t matter that it has been marked as a gift. I needed to pay the “customs tax” — which coincidentally will not reflect on the receipt. Only the P35 handling charge will be indicated.
Looking around, you could see an old man wearing tattered clothes, begging at the counter to “untax” a second hand PSP. Speaking in Filipino, he explained that his sister in the States sent the old PSP for his grandson. He couldn’t afford P6,000 worth of taxes. He barely has enough to go back home.
Disgusted, I left the package at the EMS, and decided to check the probability of packages being held up by EMS in the Philippines. I had 5 more similar packages sent in a span of 8 days — same weight, same mailing address, same value, and all marked as gifts.
The results: Packages 2 and 5 arrived “unharmed.” Packages 1, 3, and 4 did not. They were unlucky enough to be served with parcel notices.
I initially thought we are only victims of an antiquated tax system by Customs. Proof of this is the fact that Filipino tourists are only allowed a maximum of P10,000 worth of imported goods to bring home. Regardless if these are of personal use. Regardless if you had to purchase an entire set of clothing because the airline lost your luggage. (FYI, in the United States, residents are allowed to bring in up to $800 worth of goods, tax free.)
However, even worse than this illogical tax system are the existence of corrupt & evil personnel at the EMS.
We have always heard anecdotes about missing packages, opened parcels, and illegal taxing of items by the EMS. And we thought that in this day and age, it has disappeared entirely. After all, internet has penetrated the country, lessening the amount of mail being sent out. Surely the EMS would want to preserve their business by offering a highly improved service?
But decades & presidents have gone by, and this corruption still exist. And you wonder if there will ever be a solution. And you wonder if anyone would go out in the streets to correct this. It is so much easier to gather a crowd to oust a President than to fix these deeply embedded corruption in government agencies.