Onions in the Philippines are now sold three times more than chicken. This is how expensive the vegetables are sold in the market; no wonder Filipinos from Dubai bring bulks of onions when they return to the Philippines.
But the question is, is it legal to bring home onions in the luggage?
As of January 10, 2023, according to the Department of Agriculture’s price monitoring, red and white onions were being sold for P420 to P600 per kilogram (AED28 to AED40). It was above the suggested retail price of P250 per kilogram set by the Department of Trade and Industry in December last year.
Nolet Fulgencio, agriculture attaché at the Philippine Consulate-General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, clarified in a Khaleej Times report that bringing onion in one’s luggage, even for personal use, is considered importation.
“And importation is done through a certain process, where various clearances have to be sought,” she said.
If one wishes to bring onions from Dubai to the Philippines, they must secure a plant quarantine certificate (PCQ) from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). Meanwhile, commercial importers will have to secure a sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPIC).
These documents have long been used for importation requirements to the country so that agricultural products won’t bring pests or diseases into the Philippines.
To secure a PCQ, returning OFWs may email firstname.lastname@example.org. They may also ask their representative in the Philippines to apply on their behalf at the head office of BPI’s National Plant Quarantine Service Division (NPQSD).
“What expats need to know, however, is that even if they do send an e-mail to the BPI, the authority is likely to tell them that onions cannot be flown from the UAE to the Philippines. It is not allowed,” Fulgencio stressed, noting that only six countries are allowed to send onions to the Philippines, namely India, China, Australia, Korea, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
“While some may argue that there are onions in the UAE that are from India or China, the rule says the product has to come directly from these countries,” she further clarified.
While confiscation of products is the immediate consequence if caught, fines and penalties will have to come from the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Fulgencio said.
“Those that are not checked should not be allowed entry, so they have to be confiscated,” she added.