Philippines Customs: Rules for Bringing Expensive Items Home

As international travelers, the excitement of exploring new lands and experiencing diverse cultures often comes with the responsibility of adhering to customs regulations. In the Philippines, the Bureau of Customs plays a crucial role in safeguarding the nation by regulating the entry of goods and ensuring compliance with established guidelines. While the country warmly welcomes visitors and returning residents, certain items are prohibited or restricted for various reasons, ranging from public safety to environmental preservation.

In this article, we delve into the nuances of what you should avoid bringing into the Philippines, shedding light on the Bureau of Customs’ restrictions. Whether you’re a tourist eager to explore the archipelago’s beauty or a returning Filipino looking forward to reuniting with loved ones, understanding these regulations is paramount to a smooth and lawful entry.

philippine customs guidelines

Disclaimer: The information posted here is based on the personal experiences shared by the OFW in the video below. Please let this post serve as a guide only. If you have specific questions, you may ask the OFW by commenting on their video on their accounts.

A Guide to Restricted Items and What Not to Bring into the Philippines

The information presented in this article comes from a YouTube video by Alvin Avz. In the presented video, the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) vlogger discusses items restricted for entry into the Philippines by the Bureau of Customs. If you want to watch the full video, then click on the link below:

Filipinos express concern about the potential complications arising from bringing valuable items such as gold into the Philippines. A quick perusal of the Bureau of Customs website reveals a stringent list of prohibited items. According to the bureau’s regulations, the following goods are strictly forbidden:

  1. Written or printed materials, negatives, cinematographic films, photographs, engravings, lithographs, objects, paintings, drawings, or any other representation of an obscene or immoral character.
  2. Materials that advocate or incite treason, rebellion, insurrection, sedition against the Government of the Philippines.
  3. Paraphernalia related to abortion.
  4. Adulterated or misbranded food or drugs.
  5. Counterfeit goods, including but not limited to bags, shoes, and other imitations.
  6. Goods manufactured entirely or partially from gold, silver, or other precious metals or alloys, particularly those lacking the appropriate stamp, brand, or mark indicating the actual fineness or quality of the metals or alloys.

General Guidelines

Here’s a summary of the general guidelines provided by the Philippine Bureau of Customs to travelers coming back to the country from overseas:

  • All persons and baggage are subject to search at any time (Section 222 and 223 of CMTA).
  • Imported goods from any foreign country, including those previously exported from the Philippines, are generally subject to duties and taxes, unless there are specific exemptions (Section 104 of CMTA).
  • Travelers bringing in goods valued at Ten Thousand Pesos (PhP10,000.00) or below are exempt from paying duties and taxes, according to Section 423 of CMTA.
  • Filipino citizens are entitled to a duty and tax exemption for personal effects and household goods sent or brought in up to three times (3x), provided their total value does not exceed One Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos (PhP150,000.00) within a calendar year. This exemption does not apply to goods in commercial quantities or those intended for barter, sale, or hire.
  • Each traveler is allowed duty and tax-free importation of two (2) reams of cigarettes or 50 sticks of cigars or 250 grams of pipe tobacco, along with two (2) bottles of liquor valued at Ten Thousand Pesos (PHP10,000.00) or less.
  • Failure to declare any dutiable goods will subject the traveler to payment of duties and taxes, coupled with a surcharge of Thirty Percent (30%) based on the total landed cost of goods (Section 1404 of CMTA).

On Misbranded Drugs

If you have medicine, avoid transferring it to an unlabeled plastic container, as it can cause inconvenience. It is advisable to keep it in its original packaging to prevent difficulties. The same principle applies to foods and chocolates. Certain chocolates may contain prohibited ingredients, such as marijuana, which is permitted in some countries but not in ours. Ensure that you refrain from removing items from their original packaging to adhere to guidelines and regulations.

Fake Brands

Bringing these items becomes unavoidable for many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) due to financial constraints, as they may find it challenging to afford branded products. Consequently, they opt to purchase from local vendors or choose class A alternatives. The key point of concern here is the bulk purchase, as it is considered illegal. Personal use is generally acceptable, but engaging in selling activities with numerous items of expensive brands is prohibited, as it violates regulations restricting the unauthorized distribution of luxury brands.

On Gold

Bringing gold or precious metals to the Philippines is permissible, provided that their fineness is clearly indicated, such as 18-carat (750), 22-carat (916), or 24-carat with 99.9 percent gold content. According to the Bureau of Customs rules, you can bring gold without declaration as long as its value doesn’t exceed 10,000 USD. Beyond this limit, it’s essential to declare the gold, or it might lead to complications.

There’s an anecdote about a vlogger’s friend who, working in a workshop, acquired gold during sales, especially when there were no making charges. On one occasion, the vlogger’s friend sent his sibling to Dubai, where they brought back gold worth 1,000,000 pesos in tiny 1-gram pieces. However, upon arrival in the Philippines, the gold, all contained in one container, triggered the customs scanner. As a result, a fee of 30,000 pesos was imposed, eventually negotiated down to 20,000 pesos under the pretext of being for a wedding giveaway.

Another scenario involved an OFW bringing back 1 million worth of gold to the Philippines. The gold was divided into different containers, with some pieces worn personally. In this case, there were no issues with the Bureau of Customs, emphasizing that personal use, especially when worn, typically doesn’t require declaration.

However, it’s crucial to declare any gold intended for sale, particularly in commercial quantities, to avoid potential problems with customs authorities. It’s also highlighted that compliance with customs officers’ requests for bag checks is important to prevent legal complications. Instances of missing items have been reported, particularly at NAIA, emphasizing the need for vigilance and thorough checks of belongings.

How to Declare

For those arriving at NAIA Terminal 1, declaring goods can be a straightforward process when following these steps for customs clearance:

  1. Pre-arrival Declaration:
    • Within 48 hours prior to arrival, travelers have the option to file their customs baggage and currency declaration form online.
    • Log in at
    • Click the e-CBD (electronic Customs Baggage Declaration) button and acknowledge the privacy policy and important information by checking the appropriate boxes.
    • Fill out the e-CBD form, including details such as flight information, port of departure and arrival, personal information, general declaration, and any additional documents.
    • Provide your signature and email address.
  2. Currency Declaration:
    • If you are bringing in Philippine currency or monetary instruments exceeding 10,000 USD or 50,000 pesos, indicate “Yes” in the general declaration section.
    • Fill out the electronic Currencies Declaration Form (e-CDF). Note that prior written authorization from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is required for Philippine currency or monetary instruments exceeding 50,000 pesos.
    • Once complete, click submit.
  3. QR Code Generation:
    • Download the QR code automatically sent to your registered email.
    • Print the QR code or present it directly to the customs officer at the arrival area for clearance.
  4. Arrival and Clearance:
    • Proceed to the green lane if you have nothing to declare or the red lane if you have goods to declare.
  5. Assistance at the Airport:
    • If unable to declare online prior to travel, customs officers will assist in completing the paper copy or the electronic Customs Baggage and Currencies Declaration Form through i-Declare Kiosks found at the customs area.


If you are not carrying gadgets in commercial quantities, and the quantity is not excessive, there is no obligation to make a declaration. The vlogger, for instance, returned to the Philippines with six cellphones and two laptops, some of which were sent to them for their parents. It’s advisable to remove gadgets from their original boxes, especially cellphones, to ensure a smooth entry. Avoid bringing cellphones that are still in their boxes to avoid any potential complications.

In conclusion, understanding and adhering to customs regulations is paramount for a seamless entry into the Philippines. Whether it’s declaring goods online prior to arrival at NAIA Terminal 1 or being mindful of the permitted quantities for various items, travelers play a crucial role in ensuring a smooth customs clearance process. From gadgets to precious metals, the guidelines provided by the Bureau of Customs serve as a valuable resource. By following these regulations, travelers can not only navigate the complexities of customs procedures but also contribute to the overall efficiency and legality of their journey. It is essential to stay informed, declare when necessary, and cooperate with customs officers, fostering a positive travel experience and a harmonious interaction with the regulatory authorities.