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.”
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