“I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”
― Lucille Ball

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Swimming pool items via International Express Mail to the Philippines

For our renewed swimming pool I needed some parts which I was not able to trace down here in the Philippines. So I decided to order them in the US.

The sales rep of the company, in California USA, advised me to make use of USPS express mail packaging, as the items would fit in a small box, for 92 USD, excluding import duties and tax.

I didn't realize that time that this is different from e.g. FedEx or UPS. It is just international mail from one country to another, with all the problems and uncertainties involved.

From USPS I got an email with an Internet address for checking the status. After a couple of days the package was in the Philippines, but where?? See a copy of the status report below. For the US sites it specifies the location, but for the Philippines no indication of the location.

This status report was copied today, after the package was already a couple of days delivered. So it means that updates of local post offices are not included in their reporting.
Copy of status report follows now.

Postal Product:

  • Priority Mail International Parcels


    • International Parcels
March 29, 2014 , 8:58 am
Customs Clearance
Your item is being processed by customs in PHILIPPINES at 8:58 am on March 29, 2014.
March 26, 2014 , 8:26 am
Processed Through Sort Facility
March 22, 2014 , 2:32 am
Processed Through Sort Facility
March 22, 2014 , 2:29 am
Arrived at Sort Facility
March 20, 2014 , 10:54 pm
Depart USPS Sort Facility
March 20, 2014 , 8:31 pm
Processed at USPS Origin Sort Facility
March 20, 2014 , 7:01 pm
Depart Post Office
March 20, 2014 , 12:11 pm
March 19, 2014
Electronic Shipping Info Received

With previous orders from abroad, I got an email or text message from the forwarding company, saying I had to pay import duty and tax, and they specified the amount and how I could pay it. Not this time, as there is not one company responsible from door to door.

After a couple of weeks I got impatient and started a survey for the package. First step was to contact USPS. It's not easy to contact them as when you call them (US east coast business hours only), you are put in the waiting line of the call center, which can be easily last for half an hour, and I was not willing to pay the international calling cost for such a long call.

The other option was to email a complaint, by entering details they want to have in a web based form. Is also not easy as you have to put in a lot of details, like your address in the US, which I don't have. So after trying 5 times and three days, I finally could complete the complaint report using the address of the sending party, faking that it was my address.

After a couple of days I got an email of the post office manager of the sending post office in Rancho Cordova California, saying that I had to contact the local Philippines office. Which office? Customs?, which place, Manila, Clark? I remembered that when I ordered last year something abroad via UPS, it was sent to Clark airport, passed customs after I had paid duties and tax, and next it was delivered at my home in a couple of days.

As my brother in law has some relatives working in customs in Manila, I asked him to help me. He was willing to do so, so I proposed to go on Tuesday last week. As we understood now that it was a mail package, we also decided to contact the local post office in Sta. Barbara, as was advised by the post office manager in the US, before going to Manila.

Interestingly the manager there was aware of the procedure for international mail for which duties and taxes have to be payed. He showed me a letter for a customer in Sta. Barbara from customs in Manila, saying that there is a package and that the customer has to pay duty and tax. He told me that it might take two months or more before you get such a mail from customs.

After checking his own office he told me that there was no package for me, but he advised me to check in Dagupan first before going to Manila. Dagupan is the provincial distribution mail office for province Pangasinan. So I did, they checked their list of received packages as of the date my package had arrived in the Philippines, but negative.

Both mail offices advised me to go to the Central Mail Exchange Center, a part of or affiliated to the Bureau of Customs, in Manila, Domestic Road in Pasay City.

So next day we went there (bus of 4.00 AM) and experienced the total fuzz and chaotic process and procedures for getting your package. I was happy to find out that the package was there waiting to be processed. So if I didn't go there that day, it could easily take another one or two months more before customs was ready to process my package and send me the letter with required payments.

When it was my turn, I had to come to the visitation room. The customs employees opened my package and asked me what the purpose of the items are. I told them for my swimming pool and they joked that they wanted to visit me to swim in my pool. They didn't check the blue box with chemicals, just wanted to know what the purpose was. I was a bit afraid as there is an article in the customs importing rules about importing chemicals, but they didn't bring it up. Also the electric valve opener did not get their attention. So I am really doubting their knowledge and judging capacity, I guess it is all about getting as much as possible money from imports.

According to my information I gathered on Internet for importing swimming pool items, the duty would be 1% and VAT 11%, but they had a higher calculation as follows:

Total of purchase, inc. transport: 19.578 pesos, payment items are:

  • Duty 5%:          979 pesos
  • IPF:                  250 pesos
  • CDS:                265 pesos
  • ---------------------------- +
  • Subtotal         1.494 pesos ============> 1.494 pesos
  • Value items: 19.578 pesos
  • ---------------------------- +
  • Total            21.072 pesos
  • VAT 12%      2.529 pesos ============> 2.529 pesos
  •                                             Grand Total    4.023 pesos

I am surprised that they calculated the duty as 5%, my information says it is 1% only for swimming pool parts, and VAT 11 %, not 12%. Who can confirm or comment?

In stead of bringing home the package after I payed the import duty and tax, I had to leave the package behind in the post office. It would be sent to the destination, via Phil Post priority mail. I am surprised that during the whole process, I didn't have to identify myself, that might be the reason I couldn't bring the package.

Two days later I got the package and meanwhile the valves are installed and I can refill the swimming pool again. I will show you the swimming pool extension project soon in a new post.

See also my previous post on this duty and tax subject.


Contact Form


Email *

Message *