Taxes on book imports lifted!

From The Philippine Star: “President Arroyo ordered yesterday the Department of Finance to scrap the taxes imposed on imported books and reading material.

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Manuel L. Quezon III: “New Media has (again) proven its political and social clout with the breaking of the book blockade.”

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Book associations appeal to GMA to withdraw book tax

The following letter appeared as a full-page ad in the print edition of The Philippine Star today, and is reproduced here verbatim:

OPEN LETTER TO HER EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

Dear Madame President,

We, the members of different Book Associations in the counry are appealing for your help in withdrawing the Department of Finance Order 17-09 which imposes duty on the importation of books.

We believe that said Order is not to the best interest of the country. It violates the Florence Agreement, an international treaty. It also violates R.A. 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act.

The imposition of duty on book importations, no matter how minimal, will increase the cost to our readers, whic in turn will fundamentally affet the quality of education, literacy and over-all access to information and knowledge. Our young need to be educated and become literate to a high degree to be competitive in the emerging world market. This requires world-class and world-wide access to information and knowledge through books.

The Florence Agreement, of which the Philippines is a signatory since 1952, has for its main objectives the free flow of information among contracting states. The Florence Agreement Guide also expressly states that “Under the Agreement, books, newspapers, periodicals, and many other categories of printed matter are granted duty-free entry”.

The Book Publishing Industry Development Act has also expressly provided in Section 12 for the tax-and-duty free importation of books and raw materials for book publishing. However, the DOF has chosen to interpret this provision to mean that only books used for book publishing are duty free. We certainly disagree. This Section 12 really refers to both importation of books and importation of raw materials such as paper and machinery needed and used for book publishing.

Madame President, we are joining writers, authors and readers in the clamor for the continued duty-free importation of books. Please help us and our countrymen.

Sincerely yours,

(Sgd.) LIRIO P. SANDOVAL
President
Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP)

(Sgd.) ATTY. JOSE AGATON SIBAL
President
Philippine Educational Publishers’ Association (PEPA)

(Sgd.) JENNIFER G. JAVIER
President
Publishers Representatives’ Organization of the Philippines (PROP)

(Sgd.) LINO DAGUS
President
Assocation of Booksellers for the Academe & Professions

(Sgd.) JOSE PAOLO M. SIBAL
President
Philippine Booksellers Association, Inc. (PBAI)

(Sgd.) RUBEN DE JESUS
President
Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY)

“No to the Philippine Book Blockade”

Begun by Maia Dumdum last 08 May 2009, this is an online petition “fueled by disgust over the recent book blockade in the Philippines”. As of this time, 812 signatures have been collected. Once the number hits 1,000, the petition will be forwarded, along with a letter, to Senator Miriam Defensor-Santago. Dumdum has already posted part of the draft that she has prepared.

If you have not signed the petition yet, please do so.

What are you doing on Sunday?

Excerpted from “The perils of loyal oppositon” by Manuel L. Quezon III [my emphasis]:

Writers are up in arms; educators are up in arms; librarians are upset, citizens in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao are outraged. Still, public opinion, so far, has mostly been ventilated on line, which is both a blessing and a bane. A blessing because people have found ways to organize themselves, primarily to express common feelings of indignation; but also a bane in that it’s proving difficult to figure out what to do. Or what can be done.

A good way to achieve a consensus in this regard is to join RockEd’s Sunday activity at the Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard, from 3 p.m. to sundown. Booklovers are asked to bring 3-5 books they’d like to swap or give away, as an act of solidarity with fellow booklovers. Perhaps this will also provide a venue for discussing, and committing to, future courses of action, such as asking for a rally permit on the steps of the DOF.

Let us set our books (duty-)free!

“Taxing Our Future”

Click here to read the full official statement by the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines opposing the imposition of duties on imported books. As of this time, portions of the statement have appeared in BusinessWorld Online and GMANews.TV.

[via Manuel L. Quezon III]

UNESCO speaks out against book tax

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) National Commission of the Philippines (finally!) released a statement last Friday opposing the imposition of duties on imported books:

“The UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines believes that tax on imported books will undoubtedly limit access to information and knowledge and curtail the free flow of information. This imposition will also slow down if not obviate our country’s efforts to become a knowledge society.

“The tax scheme has an inherent anti-poor bias as it is the marginalized sectors that will be most adversely affected by more expensive publications. Taxes on imported books and other publications will definitely widen the ‘knowledge divide’ between the rich and poor sectors of society.

“If the Philippines decides to apply custom duties or other charges on the importation of materials coming from another state party, and for which the Florence Agreement foresees an exemption, it will be in breach of its obligations under this agreement.”

Additional statements of interest follow below.

  • The Philippine Star, 21 May 2009 Editorial: “Many youths who enjoy light reading such as the Harry Potter series and the Twilight vampire chronicles eventually go on to heavier subjects including non-fiction and classic literature. Book enjoyment is carried on into adulthood. Does education stop after college graduation?”
  • Alex Maximo: “Administrators should let this sink in – these books are making our students read again. Deprive them of that motivation and surely, we’ll find ourselves more illiterate as a society. Then again, that’s always been the plan. Dumb society down so that no one will be able to shake the status quo.”
  • Dr. Elizabeth Morales-Nuncio [via Louie Jon Sanchez]: “This will totally kill reading culture. [W]e’re just discouraging people to read.”
  • Senator Francis Escudero: “This […] tax may very well be equivalent to book burning as it will result in people reading less books because they can no longer afford to buy them.”
  • Jullie Daza: “What do we do with books if they are not for sale, barter or hire? Do we eat them? Recycle them into building materials? Burn them? […] Ms. Sales is a danger to society…”
  • Alex Magno: “Where we stand today, literacy is already an imperiled skill. The Philistines who want to tax books aggravate the danger facing our civility.”
  • Amando Doronila: “Any moment authorities pass judgment on books, the stage for mind control, inquisition and physical torture is set. More than that, censors become the vanguard of a new age of ignorance.”
  • Conardo de Quiros: “In this magic-realist country, all that will probably happen is that Customs will justify the exaction on books as being necessary to give Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the wherewithal to launch a reading program.”