[Before Paradise] The Good, Bad, and the Philippines BAI

Well, I really don’t know where to start. 

All along we have been targeting the end of July for our departure from the U.S. and things lately have been going rather smoothly. So smooth that I was beginning to worry that ‘ole “Murphy” and one of his laws of inconvenience would eventually show up to mess things up. But, as fate would have it, we didn’t need “Murphy” to screw anything up…we have a shipping company to blame. From the beginning of my research into shipping our household goods (HHG), I understood that we would basically need to arrive in the Philippines BEFORE our HHG shipment arrived in order to take advantage of the “duty-free” exemption status offered to 13A visa holders. Technically, our passports need to show an arrival date prior to the arrival of the container. More correctly, My 13A visa needed to be approved prior to the shipment arriving, but to keep it all simple, the plan was to be there before the shipment as it takes time to process through airport immigration, the BOI, the Dept of Finance, and then the Bureau of Customs. I wanted everything to be accomplished so that we could be ready with customs to claim the shipment.

Our timeline was completely blown when our local shipper (Allied) miscommunicated the container shipping instructions. It was my intent for our HHG to be stored locally in the U.S. for 30 days (we paid for that) and then shipped. This would ensure the time needed to obtain my 13A visa from the Chicago consulate and also receive our animal permits from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) in Manila in plenty of time to get our cats their physicals and international health certificates from the vet. Then we needed to make our travel arrangements and flight reservations. But, as fate would have it, our shipment got shipped! I wasn’t even aware of the mishap until I received an email from Goetz Moving and Storage in Manila about the good news of our tentative shipment’s arrival on the 10th of July! WHAT ?!?!?!


My first thought was to scramble the fighter jets and launch a couple of ICBM’s to create a distraction. I really didn’t know what to do exactly. It was only just last Saturday that I received my Passport stamped with my Non-Quota Immigrant Visa (13A) from the consulate in Chicago, but we were having difficulty with the BAI and obtaining our import permits. Now I was beginning to get a good dose of Philippine government bureaucracy. I began the process many weeks ago by visiting the BAI online where I duly registered for pet importation and downloaded the pertinent import request forms. I filled them out and sent them back as attachments to the email address that was provided on their website. Then I waited, and waited….and re-sent the email…and again…and then I began to panic. I discovered all the emails were being returned as undeliverable. I checked and confirmed the address again. As I read deeper into the gobbledygook of the returned emails, I found the reason for the non-deliverability…the addressee did not have a valid Yahoo account! So much for the quarantine_bai@yahoo.com address they provide. I quickly stuffed an envelope and “snail mailed” the documents to the address in the Philippines with the understanding it would take a minimum of 10 days to get there. Then I loaded up the Skype account on the computer and began calling, and calling, and calling…until I got the right department. They kept repeating that I needed to just send the request to the email address. They also said they get many requests every day. I contacted a friend who imported his dogs about a year ago and he also provided me the same address and said his experience went as smooth as could be. No luck. The address was just not working. So I played around some and discovered that maybe it should be a Yahoo.ph address. I sent it there and it just disappeared into cyberspace for two days until I got an undelivered message. Nope. That wasn’t it. So I called the BAI again, got shuffled around some more, and then I get this “Oh but sir, that is not the correct email address you are using.”Auuggghhhh! “But that is the address on the website and the same address that you have been telling me to send to,” I said. “Yes sir, but that is not the correct address.” Well, after about a 10-minute go-round with this young fellow, and just like pulling teeth, I finally was provided with a different address….seems they now have a Hotmail account, or is it a Gmail account? He wasn’t sure and told me to try both!

Bureau of Animal Industry

Long story short – within 36 hours of sending the request to baiquarantine@hotmail.com, I received the approved permit to import two cats with all the necessary instructions and requirements for completing the health certificate. Now that’s efficiency. Now if someone would just update the BAI website and online application instructions and process, the BAI would be light years ahead of where they are today. (Webmaster needed!)

So while the technology that has been implemented within the great Philippine government bureaucracy has improved their efficiency, communications still seem to be a laggard. But overall, I think things are improving. A good analogy to this entire evolution would be like having your car run out of gas just before you reach the top of a hill. So, you get out and struggle and push it to get to the top of the hill. Once you reach the top, you just jump in and the ride down is smooth and easy!

Cats in carrier

Now we have everything we need…my visa, animal import permits – and a HHG shipment due to arrive 30 days earlier than planned. All I have to do now is sell one Jeep Liberty and I happen to have a couple of buyers standing in line. The one thing we didn’t have at this point was airline tickets. So yesterday was totally dedicated to a major scramble – to get the animals their physicals, shots, and required treatments. Airline reservations were made with approval to carry the two cats in-cabin. International health certificates will be prepared this week and will be dated within the (supposed) required 10 days prior to commencement of travel. We frantically bounced around all day doing this and that, going store to store picking up last minute items, and then back to the house to begin packing the last of our remaining balikbayan boxes. We threw two steaks on the little Weber grill and opened a bottle of wine. Whew!!! We were now on track to get to the Philippines 3 weeks earlier than planned and in plenty of time to meet our shipment.

I'll soon be ejoying a Grande San Miguel!
I’ll soon be enjoying a Grande San Miguel… or three!

In essence, you really can make something good out of a bad situation. With the right attitude and a little hard work (and some improved efficiencies with the Philippine government), problems just seem to work themselves out. And in our case, it all comes with a big bonus…we get to paradise sooner and don’t have to pay one more month of rent. Nor ever!

 NOTICE: Since publishing this article, I have been the target of an apparent scam. Read about it in this Scam Alert!

12 thoughts on “[Before Paradise] The Good, Bad, and the Philippines BAI

  1. Im glad it finally all worked out with the shipping stuff….and all the other requirements… it can be so much to deal with…. Im pretty impressed with your patience and calmness…. i’d be a basket case by now…. thanks for sharing all the story of the Bad and now finally the Good! God Bless you both, calbayogtom here.

  2. lucky lucky lucky!!! Hope the Miami Heat have a little of your luck tonight.

    So your cats will be riding in the airplane with u all ??? I am guessing in-cabin means on your lap or somewhere u all can hold them? What about using bathroom for the…cat pee is strong.
    I would love to have a dog now but don’t coz I would have to take it to the Phils. What is it costing u to take the cats?
    I know time is going to fly for u all …….don’t forget to write lol

  3. Hi Kevin, The cost for taking the cats are $100 apiece at time of check-in. We will not feed them for 8 hours prior to the flight and have soft carriers for them which are designed to fit under the seat. The carriers are also lined with absorbing pads just in case (we can remove them like a pamper and dispose of them). Airlines have an allowance for pets-in-cabin and I think it is a maximum of 4 per flight due to the potential odor. We will take all the precautions to prevent any discomfort…for them and us! The main thing is no food or water 8 hours prior to the flight. The vet says they will be fine. I will continue the blog after we get there so keep visiting. Go Spurs! 😉

  4. Tom, who ever said we wern’t stressed! lol Have you ever had things go so wrong that it actually became a benefit. We have some good karma going on and we hope it continues for another 13 days. See you in Calbayog!.

  5. Congratulations. Hope the flight has a light tail wind and you land early and get to the San Miguel ASAP!

    Soon………………….Very very soon!

  6. Thanks Terry. I’ll definately savor that first bottle…and try to erase that picture of the whales you so kindly sent me. The earlier, the better!


    You have some lucky cats. Most people would give away or abandon them. I wish you smooth sailing and ice cold beer soon, Randy!

  8. Thanks Kevin. Our cats are our children. Two of them are over 16 years old, are ailing and will be put down. The two younger ones (Siamese and Norwegian Forest Cat) will make the trip. We couldn’t leave them as they help control our blood pressure! 🙂

  9. Today I received a suspicious email as follows:

    We acknowledged the receipt of your mail,i traveled to The Gambia for official visit.

    We have new rules,our client have to pay first through western union before issuing import permits.Import Permits for 2 pets is $520,make the payment through western union to Gambia on this name;Mrs.Mary Taylor,Address/Destination:Gambia Veterinary Health Center,Banjul,The Gambia.


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