Sunday, May 10, 2009

Philippine Customs continues to block book imporation; responds to criticism; is responded to in return

From Manuel Quezon III's blog, a timeline of this whole brouhaha.

Most interesting is Usec Sales' latest argument for taxing books, that "there really is a provision for a 1% duty on imported books (”educational, cultural, etc.”) that are for sale and for profit" found in Sec. 105 of the Tariffs and Customs Code.

To which the Book Development Association of the Philippines replied with a document, here reproduced in full:

Position Paper of the Book Development Association of the Philippines Re: Tax and Duty Free Importation of ...
Position Paper of the Book Development Association of the Philippines Re: Tax and Duty Free Importation of Books Into the Country mlq3 Industry position paper in response to Department of Finance imposition of import duties on books.

Which basically all boils down to "the Department of Finance is breaking international and its own laws imposing this tax, the National Book Development Board has the sole authority to determine when and how and if books are to be taxed and anyway Republic Act No. 8047 is the last word on this subject."

And so matters stand. So far.

Postscript: on NPR today two members of the Obama transition team discussed his possible choice to replace Justice Souter, and, paraphrasing roughly what they said, it was significant that Obama mentioned the word 'empathy' as one of the qualities he's looking for in a new Supreme Court justice.

In effect, he's looking for someone who would look not at the letter of the law, but the intent for which the law was enacted, and its overall impact on people.

An interesting idea! If, say, Usec Sales used such a radical principle to weigh the pros and cons of her proposal to apply levies on book importation (Proposal? It's fait accompli, a done deal; like the Somali pirates, she's boarded the ship and is shaking down the crew), Sales in effect would be weighing the increase of a few million pesos in revenues (I mean, how big is the book industry in the Philippines, anyway? Certainly not bigger than the TV industry!) against the growth and development of the country's collective intellect.

A couple of pesos against a country's cultural and educational future. Does not take a genius, I think, to figure that out.


Noel Vera said...

This from a friend Angel Chan at BPI:

"Hi, Noel. Angel Chan from BPI here. I've read on your web site an article pertaining to the imposition of taxes on books. RA 8047 contains a provision on duty-free book imports and I don't know why a Customs official or even MalacaƱang have a different interpretation of the law. Taxing books discourages book reading among the public. Sad to say, public schools do not have sufficient books for students and the quality of education in the country has deteriorated over time.

Taxing books deprives the public of books to read and is an unwise move for the government at that. You are right on the implication - for a couple of pesos in exchange for the country's cultural and educational future. Maybe some of our officials should have to read more and more books and should have never gone on to putting taxes on books in the first place."

Anonymous said...

We import a lot of our inventory from overseas. This is no surprise. Customs personnel can be very creative in cooking up new ways of extracting more duties and taxes. I think they would charge the public duty on the annual cold front coming down from China if they could. LOL!

Noel Vera said...

Customs probably alread does.

Anonymous said...

This may be a case of the chicken coming home to roost.

People who dont read books (hence, stoopid) are now -- zealously and patriotically -- making it difficult for millions to read (or buy) books.

Thanks for you posts, Noel.

Noel Vera said...

Tenk yew!