I meant to post this one earlier, but as usual, work got in the way.
Now, if there was anything that I know I love and will spend for (aside from my family), it’s books. I’d honestly rather spend on books than on clothes, really. And from all the book reviews I post in my site as well as the posts I write about books, it’s really obvious, right?
And this post is about books as well, but it’s really something that pissed me off when I first read about it, that I can’t believe it’s actually happening.
To make the long story short: we all know how hard it is to get stuffed imported in here from another country, unless you know someone from Customs. I’m not generalizing, but I’ve been a victim of this once, with an Amazon packaged purchased from my wishlist. I know that postal service sucks (for most part) in the country, and I am thankful to have been spared by it from the past orders/deliveries I received in the past months. But still, you know, there’s always the possibility of having a package I ordered being held up at the post office because I have to pay some kind of fee before I get it.
Now, apparently, early this year, there was this huge order on Twilight by Stephenie Meyer that reached the Philippine shores. Being very successful (ahem), it attracted the eyes of some customs officials and they demanded that duties (taxes) be paid for it.
Honestly, if I were to order something from outside the country and I’m really not in the mood to be hassled just so I can not pay those taxes, I’d probably just go ahead and pay it. Of course, we all know that’s wrong, especially when there’s no valid reason behind the additional fees, but again, who wants the hassle, right? And if you can afford it, why not?
Now the issue could have been just settled at that. I need my order of Twilight because my customers need them, so just so I won’t have to be hassled with trying to get away from the taxes and to pay for storage, I’ll just pay and get it over with. However, there is apparently a law that states that books are supposed to be tax-free. This law is called the Florence Agreement, a UN treaty where the Philippines was one of the original signatories.
I’m not much into law or any legal stuff (honestly those things make my head hurt), but I can understand that clearly enough. The Florence Agreement guarantees the “free flow of educational, scientific and cultural materials.” The reason why that shipment of Twilight was taxed because it’s not a textbook, ergo, it’s not educational. Tell me, when are books never educational? Regardless if it’s fiction or non-fiction? Or cultural, even?
Anyway, there was a lot of ruckus with interpreting the Florence Agreement (more of which you can read here), and eventually this came up: 1% tax on educational books and 5% tax on non-educational books. Who would decide if it’s educational or not? Why, the government, of course!
And again, when is a book not educational? (This really baffles me)
So anyway, there’s a lot more to this issue, and it’s really frustrating to know how this would affect us. Books would become more expensive, and because importing them would be a lot more expensive now (especially if it’s not “educational”), I predict that only the popular books would come in, and not the slightly less popular ones that are just as good. Again, books would become more expensive, and people would just resort to looking for free ebook versions instead. Or, okay, buy the ebook versions…unless someone finds a way to tax that too.
I’m being sarcastic, I know, but that’s just my ire, so forgive me. Again, I’m not too well-versed with law stuff, so I better leave the more nitty-gritty details of this to the people who know better. But please, spread the word. This entire thing is really preposterous (if I might borrow that long word :P), and we need more people to know about this issue.
Join the Cause on Facebook: Filipinos Against the Taxation of Books by Customs
The Great Book Blockade of 2009 by Robin Hemley
– The original article that started this all
Philippine Genre Stories on The Great Book Blockade of 2009
– by Kenneth Yu, with lots of reactions in it. This is a pretty long read, but it’s very, very informative.
The Long View:The Great Book Blockade of 2009
– by Manuel L. Quezon III
Essay: Clarifying the Great Book Blockade of 2009
Essay: More The Great Book Blocakade of 2009 Fallacies
Robin Hemley Responds
– All by Charles Tan — read it to calm yourself down a bit :P
A Taxing Matter
What is the street value of being human? (via Philippine Star)
– by Jessica Zafra
We Ain’t Taxing Books Here: Bookbigayan 2009
– An actual event sponsored by Rock Ed that protests against taxes on books. It’s not a rally, but rather a book giveaway. It’s on May 24, 3pm onwards at Roxas Blvd. You may donate books and get some free books — all free of course. I’m not so sure if I can attend this, but I will really try.
The Great Book Blockade of 2009 on Bookmarked!
– By Blooey Singson, and it details her dealings with MCPO and Customs.
Letter to the President of the Philippines from Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin concerning the imposition of Customs duties on imported books sent May 11, 2009
The Stupidication of the Filipino – This and That and Whatnot
– by The Jester in Exile
The Great Book Blockade of 2009
– Comic strip c/o Beerkada
Espele Sales: “Books are non-educational”
– by Jayvee Fernandez
Binay: BOC should go after smugglers, not taxing books
– From Business Mirror
‘Book Blockade’ irks Miriam; Senate Probe Sought
– c/o ABS-CBN News
GBB: Dissecting BOC’s FAQ and DOF Guidelines
More Senators question ‘book blockade’
– c/o PhilStar
– by Dennis Gonzalez, National Book Development Board Chairman
Today in Philippine Twittersphere: fighting the Book Blockade
– by Ia Lucero
If you have an article about this issue, leave a comment here so I can link you too. :)