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How To Import Phones From Overseas To The Philippines

OnePlus 3

We’ve all looked at websites like Aliexpress, eBay, GearBest longingly at the awesome phones, tablets and notebooks being sold there that’s not available in the PH market, and wondered at what it would take to bring them to our country. Overseas e-commerce shopping has long been a mysterious affair for many, especially for people not familiar with it.

It was, until now of course. We’ve done all the necessary legwork necessary and consulted with the office of Atty. Agaton Teodoro Uvero, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs to find the most pertinent information in LEGALLY importing electronic goods like smartphones, tablets and notebooks into the PH. Of course there’s already services like MyShipping Box and Johnny Air that ships devices from the US to the PH, though we haven’t found equivalent services for vendors located in China and Hong Kong.

First things first – buying the product. You’ll want to use either a credit card or a debit card to buy your phone/tablet/notebook of choice from your website of choice. If you don’t have either of those, you can always go with PayMaya – it’s a great service that gives you a virtual card number that you load with cash, similar to a debit card. Anyway, as for the sites, we’ve heard good things from GearBest – they have a wide selection of products to choose from. Our current favorite site to buy from is Aliexpress – they have very good prices as well as free shipping for many of the items sold in their site.

Once you order your items, you’ll have to select your shipping method. For Aliexpress, their free shipping usually means they’ll use China Post Registered Air Mail for packages, which has tracking all the way to your local post office. You can also use other, more pricier methods like DHL for your order, which automatically computes customs charges for you that you’ll need to pay when your package gets delivered to your door (which you then have to pay to them before they release your package). Packages sent via EMS generally arrive faster in the country of their destination, but items with batteries usually get flagged and you’ll have to go to their branch in Pasay to pick up your stuff if you ship with them.

After you order your phone, tablet or notebook though, you’ll have to file an application with the NTC. Yes – customs will hold your package and ask for an NTC permit if they determine your device can either make or receive signals (either analog or digital) – signals that phones, tablets and notebooks make. We spoke to the licensing department of the NTC, and they say that you’ll need to take the invoice of the product that you bought, along with the specs of the product (all the radio frequencies it utilizes) to their office to apply for manual licensing. This will take around 3 days and will cost around 255 pesos.

Singapore Post

Once all of that is done, you’ll need to wait for your package to arrive. The arrival time of your item as well as your ability to track it depends on the shipping method you utilize. Singapore Post for example, only tracked one of our packages (bought from Aliexpress) to its hand-off to an airline in Hong Kong and has still not arrived as of press time.

China Post Registered Mail

China Post Registered Air Mail tracked our package straight till its delivery to our local post office 11 days from departure to arrival to our door.

DHL 1

DHL being DHL, was the fastest option – they took just 6 days to get from China to our door and took care of paying for all of the customs fees, though they are by far the most expensive option that we used.

After what seems eons of waiting, you’ll get a notification from your local post man that you’ll need to claim your package from your local post office. A customs officer will now compute the taxes that you’ll need to pay for the item. Here’s where people usually get lost in the computation – items like phones, notebooks and tablets are zero rated, meaning the computation for the taxes you’ll need to pay is simply the total of the dutiable value, bank charge, customs documentary stamp, brokerage fee, import processing fee multiplied by 12% which is our vat.

To get the dutiable value, all you need to add is the value of your phone, along with the freight and insurance cost. The Customs Documentary Stamp is Php 265, while the Import Processing Fee is Php 250. For the Bank Charge, you’ll need to multiply dutiable value by .00125. For the brokerage fee, it depends on the dutiable value of your item – items under Php 10K, it’s around 1,300, items around 10K to 20K its around 2,000, for items around 20K to 30K its 2,700, and items 30K to 40K its around 3,300.

For example, if we bought this 6GB/64GB OnePlus 3 from Aliexpress, our dutiable value would be 438.62. That’s Php 20671.94 in our currency. So the bank charge would be Php 25.83, while the brokerage fee will be 2,700, and the Import Processing fee would be 250 and the Customs Documentary Stamp will be Php 265. Add that all up and you’ll get Php 23,912.77. 12% vat is Php 2,869, so the total amount you’ll be spending for the phone with customs duties and NTC permit is Php 26,781 .

The most important thing is to ask for all of the receipts that you get when you pay for your package. If you feel that the customs personnel is pulling a fast one, get their name, the receipt and file a complaint either with the Bureau of Customs or the upcoming hotline that the government is setting up.

That’s pretty much it. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to go through all of these things just to get a phone, but if a device is rare enough (or the price is good enough) then buying it online and going through the process may be something that you might be interested in.

[BIG EDIT FOR 2017]

When this article was written last year, the new deminimis rule hadn’t taken effect yet. Basically under the new rule, anything valued 10K below (before shipping charges) bought from overseas are now tax-free. This is a boon for many people looking to score affordable smartphones and other gadgets from the sites we mentioned above. You will still have to provide your NTC permit if they ask you too, and if your local postman still stubbornly asks to tax your goods under 10K in 2017, show them this PDF of the order issued by the government. 

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

32 Comments

  1. Add that all up and you’ll get Php 23,912.77. 12% vat is Php 2,869, so the total amount you’ll be spending for the phone with customs duties and NTC permit is Php 23,791.

    Should be Php26,781 (total). Hassle.

  2. Serious question po, bakit ang laki ng difference sa price ng widgetcity? Di sla nagbabayad ng tax? Almost 6k?

  3. 6K in duties/tax/etc…!!! Php26,781 total! not worth it!
    Buy in Widget City for Php20,999 only plus Php300 for LBC delivery! no hassle!

  4. As far as I know they had already phased out the Customs Documentary Stamp and the Import Processing Fee. I forgot what they call it now but instead of charging those fees, they had whittled it down to this Import Fee worth 15 pesos and I had several packages held by customs in the past.

    1. I think it depends on the type of item and the price. I bought two USB to 2.5mm adaptors in Aliexpress last month for $1 each, had to pay P145 each to claim them from the post.

        1. Actually they do NOT exempt anyone from customs duties. However, there are circumstances that the item that is sent to the country is not tagged for duties, for example, books. As for the 145 peso fee, I think you are referring to the postal fee which has recently gone up again to 112 pesos the last time I had something sent last May and is unavoidable. But yes, the 15 pesos fee is implemented across all items and a visit to the customs will even reveal this tidbit. I wonder why this article did not mention it.

  5. i bought my Xiaomi Mi Max 3gb/64gb via aliexpress @ $288.99 + 5$ worth of tempered glass then i chose DHL as my delivery option costing me additional $ 10.42 for a total of $304.41 exchange rate that day was @ Php 47.106 thus i was charged Php 14,340.00 approx.

    kinda neat right for the price.

    THEN I WAS CHARGED a whooping Php 1,580.00 by customs.

    grabe mahal. i remember when i bought my apple iphone 6 64gb worth $899~ via apple store i was only charged less than that. imagine the difference in value.

      1. DHL will pre-pay customs duties for you, which you then have to pay when you receive your item. What you’re paying for is the quick delivery as well as their expertise with dealing with customs. Avoiding paying customs charges is a crime. It’s taxes that we need to pay to the government whether we like it or not.

          1. Same question here. Will DHL also cover the NTC Permit part for you?..

          2. No, you will have to source that permit yourself. They will hold your shipment until you’re able to send a copy of the permit to them.

  6. Rubber case at zero lemon battery chargers lang ang binibili ko online. Pagdating sa phones at laptops sa local distributors pa rin ako para isang official receipt lang ang iintindihin ko di pa ko kabado sa warranty. Saka na ako bibili ng mahal na gadgets overseas pag naayos na ni digong ang corruption sa customs. Magbasa lang kayo ng mga reklamo ng ofw sa balikbayan padala at alam nyo na kung kalaki ang kupit ng mga taga customs na yan.

  7. Daming ek-ek pala pag sa overseas ka nag order. Hassle to the max. Better buy from local online store. Kahit mahal ng konti, hindi naman uminit mo ulo mo kapupunta sa customs, post office, NTC, etc. At hindi ka na rin mabibigla sa mga hidden chages ng customs (kung meron).

    Want hassle free online shopping? Better buy locally. Hindi naman kailangan dalhin dito mga models and brands from other countries na wala dito. Some gadgets were made specifically for a country. Baka pag order mo sa China, walang ibang language yung gadget kundi Chinese. Todas pera mo, hirap at pagod…

    Just saying…

  8. John, so ano kung hindi na pumunta sa NTC? Parang yun mga nag-post na nakabili na sila at ok naman daw, parang di naman sila pumunta sa NTC eh. Or lahat sila pumunta sa NTC kasi hindi mare-release yun package, even by DHL, kung hindi pupunta ng NTC?

  9. Interesting topic for me.

    But I would like to mention an experience…

    I wanted a phone that is not sold locally. I searched at Lazada and it was available from an “international seller”, (China in this case.) The price was really tempting (in PHP). I was hesitant because it was quite low if I converted from other online prices and add estimated customs duties etc.

    I did go through the purchase using my credit card. the Phone arrived about 3 weeks. I didn’t have to pay anything else. It was delivered by LBC on my doorsteps. And I didn’t have any problems with the phone itself.

    Now, my question is, do “International Sellers” or LAZADA itself pay the custom duties, etc? Just curious because I just paid what is posted on the product page at LAZADA. I didn’t pay anything else upon delivery. And I didn’t have to go to NTC for permits/licenses.

  10. Hi. I bought a couple of Xiaomi phones from Aliexpress for personal use. I will use them when I get back to China.. I had to buy it online since the ones available in China are not the global versions with Google playstore. I chose DHL for shipping. Do I still need to get NTC permit? I am not puchasing or importing to sell. If I have to, what is the permit called? Will DHL keep the package until I provied the permit? Idk really how this goes, pease enlighten me. I didn’t know wbout this. Thanks a lot!

  11. What if i did not buy the phone? Like somebody juat give it away to me, from US to Phils, how much will be the custom tax?

  12. Hi! I saw your reply sa ibang comments sa baba, I’m really interested in buying a phone sa expansys.ph and saw this article. Yun lang it was published pa in 2016 so I’m wonder kung gaano siya ka-accurate today? Tapos you mentioned something about NTC? Paano rin yun?

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