5kg detergent, 2 litres of shampoo: Full list of items Filipinos in UAE can legally take home for personal use

For expats who got confused about what can be packed in a suitcase after 10 flight attendants got in trouble for bringing onions and fruits, here's a quick guide on items that the Philippine customs authorities allow

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File photo
File photo

By Kirstin Bernabe-Santos

Published: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 5:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 19 Jan 2023, 5:23 PM

With 10 Filipino flight attendants facing smuggling charges after being caught with onions in their suitcases, many expats in the UAE were left confused about what they can and cannot carry for their families back home.

Many argued that the quantities of onions seized could still be considered "for personal use", especially since the price of the staple vegetable had soared to Dh40 per kilogramme. So, why was it considered illegal when it appeared like they wouldn't be selling them anyway?

Even senators in the Philippines are questioning the Customs' inspections, saying the confiscation was 'unacceptable', even 'cruel'.

The Bureau of Customs (BoC) has been following a 2015 memorandum, which states that bringing in fresh, unprocessed food — even in quantities for personal use — is not allowed, unless prior clearance from the Department of Agriculture is obtained. An official at the Philippine Consulate in Dubai and the Northern Emirates explained the process in a previous Khaleej Times report.

The same memo — a four-page circular — contains other important details on the items that overseas Filipinos are allowed to bring. It was released by the BoC, in partnership with the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

Certain limits have been set on items like perfume, soap, and even toys. The advisory specifies the quantities that are considered 'for personal use'.

Here's the list of items that can be packed into a luggage or sent to the Philippines via cargo boxes (without having to secure permits):

Childcare articles5kg
Toys 10 pieces
Perfume5 pieces
Lipstick10 pieces
Shampoo2kg (2 litres)
Lotion2kg (2 litres)
Bar soap2kg
Assorted cosmetics1kg
Household substances (such as detergents, fabric conditioners/softeners, dishwashing liquid)5kg
In-Vitro Diagnostic products1 piece of each type
Medical devices (except those used as maintenance, such as insulin needles and lancets which are sold by packs of up to 100 pieces)1 piece of each type
Over-the-counter drugs50g
Prescription drugs The quantity should correspond to what was written on the prescription
Vitamins, health supplements500g in total
Processed/ cooked food10kg
Wines/liquor2 bottles but not exceeding 1.5 litres

The Customs said the covered products — whether declared or undeclared — will be seized if they are brought in beyond the limits and without clearance from the food and drug and health authorities.

"Those within the specified limit shall be allowed without FDA-DOH clearance subject to payment of customs duties, when necessary," it added.


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