Can You Bring Home Onions as Pasalubong?

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When onion prices skyrocketed to P700 per kilo, it's no surprise many Filipinos abroad consider bringing home kilos of this vegetable because it's a lot cheaper outside the Philippines-think P50 per kilo in UAE. It begs the question: are we allowed to bring it home from other countries? 

While some OFWs joked about stuffing their luggage with onions instead of the usual chocolate pasalubong from abroad, at least 10 crew members of Philippine Airlines were caught allegedly smuggling 15.5 kilos of undeclared onions and other produce when they flew back from Riyadh on January 10. They said it's pasalubong; but for the Bureau of Customs, it's contraband and is therefore illegal, according to Lourdes Mangaoang, deputy collector for passenger service of Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  

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"When you do not submit the required document to the [BOC], then the importation is illegal. That becomes contraband, puwede talaga silang file-an ng smuggling case pero sa ngayon, wala kaming desisyon na ganyan," Mangaoang told TeleRadyo in an interview on Monday, January 16. 

What you need to know about bringing in onions and other produce to the Philippines:

So why is BOC so strict with onions, knowing very well there's an onion shortage in the Philippines?

"Kahit na isang onion lang 'yan or isang kilong prutas lang 'yan, bakit 'yan kailangan ng sanitary and phytosanitary permit from point of origin? Kasi posibleng 'yan ay may peste o plant diseases at 'pag 'yang peste na 'yan at plant diseases na 'yan ay nakapasok sa Pilipinas, mabilis po mag-spread, mag-multiply ang mga peste, puwede nitong sirain ang ating crops, ating mga pagkain," Mangaoang said.

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Importation of vegetables and other plants is allowed as long as it complies with the required Plant Quarantine Clearance for personal use or Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance for commercial use from the Bureau of Plant Industry. It applies to all plants and produce coming in from other countries, including those for personal use, said Jose Diego Roxas, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) - Information and Computer Section. 


"Sa mga ganyang cases po, less than five kilos lang ang allowed kada tao... pero may restrictions," he told TeleRadyo.

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"'Yong five kilos po na 'yon, isang beses mo lang siya magagamit sa buong buhay mo so for example jetsetter ka o madalas ka mag-travel tas gusto mo madalas din nag-import, kailangan mo na rin ng additional requirements like license to operate from quarantine division."


In the case of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) crew members, they should have gotten sanitary and phytosanitary clearance from Dubai, the point of origin, said Mangaoang.

Not all plants are allowed for import, Roxas said. It must be on the list of allowed produce for import according to the Bureau of Quarantine and depends on the country of origin, he said.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.


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