Buying Books May Soon Cost You More

Sign this petition to stop it, hopefully.

(SPOT.ph) During the Nazi regime in Germany under Adolf Hitler, student groups in major universities carried out the public burning of books. These students believed (after much brainwashing) in the dictator's racist ideology, and anything "un-German"—especially books written by authors considered as enemies of National Socialism—were destroyed. Eighty-five years later on the other side of the world, the Philippine government is once again on its way to repealing the tax-exempt status of local and imported books, which basically means that publishing and purchasing books will (really) put a dent on every one's pockets.

The repeal is included as a rider in the second package of the Duterte administration's controversial Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion program, which the House of Representatives renamed as Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High Quality Opportunities. "It is a corrective measure to address redundant incentives given to firms which fixed income earners are in a way subsidizing," Arroyo clarified. The bill was approved by Congress on September 4.

From Section 38, Repealing Clauses: Page 94 of House Bill 8083 or "Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities" (TRABAHO) Congress of the Philippines

Pages 81 and 82 of Senate Bill 1906 or the "Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act" by Sen. Vicente Sotto III Senate of the Philippines

For the bill’s proponents, one of these "firms" considered to have "redundant incentives" is the book-publishing industry, and they want to repeal Section 12 of R.A. 8047 or "An Act Providing for the Development of the Book Publishing Industry Through the Formulation and Implementation of a National Book Policy and a National Book Development Plan." With this amendment, key players in book publishing will lose entitlement to "fiscal and non-fiscal incentives;" duty- and VAT-free status of imported books is under threat; and "books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, including book publishing and printing, as well as its distribution and circulation" will no longer be "exempt from the coverage of the expanded value added tax law."

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Book Publishing Industry Development Act of 1995 National Book Development Board

The last time that something as alarming happened was in 2009, when the Bureau of Customs decided to impose duties on imported books. The order was immediately repealed after it was seen that this violated the UNESCO Florence Agreement, which "stipulates that no Customs duties or any other charges, including value added tax (VAT), be applied to imported educational, scientific, and cultural materials."

Hoping to once again use the law on its side as well as the support of the people, Filipino writing organization Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo is protesting this action through an online petition published through Facebook on September 8. "Isang Laban para sa mga Aklat: Tutulan ang Pagpapawalang-bisà sa Section 12 ng Book Publishing Industry Development Act ng 1995," the note says. It gives a three-point argument on what this bill means for the common Filipino, emphasizing that it's not just about paying more for books but also about halting the already flourishing book-publishing industry in the Philippines.

"Ang libro ay hindi lámang karaniwang libangan o aliwang maaaring patawan na lámang ng buwis, kung nanaisin. Hindi ito bisyo, tulad ng maraming ibig buwisan ngayon. Isa itong daan patungo sa pagkatuto, paglikha, at pagkilala sa sarili at daigdig. May kapangyarihan itong makapagpalaya mula sa laksang kaapihan.

Higit kailanman, sa panahon ng malawakang kamangmangan, kalituhan, at kasinungalingan, kailangang panatilihing abót ng mamamayan ang mga aklat sapagkat sa mga ito lámang maaaring magkaroon ng pagkakataong matalik na maharap at masuri ang mahahalagang danas at usapin ng ating panahon," the petition concludes.

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We may need to hoard books during the upcoming Manila International Book Fair, before it's too late.

The Linangan sa Imahen Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) is the oldest organization of poets writing in Filipino. To sign the petition, visit Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo's Facebook page.

UPDATE (October 1): In a statement published on September 25, the Department of Finance assured the public that "the purchase and importation of books will remain tax exempt under the second tax reform package of the Duterte administration." Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua added that the repeal of the tax provision of the Book Publishing Industry Development Act is still subject to an evaluation process.

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