Press Release
May 16, 2009


Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday said the Department of Finance should rescind an order levying taxes on imported books, saying that it should focus instead on raising revenues by plugging massive collection leakages due to corruption.

"The Department of Finance has thrown the wrong book at the reading public when it erroneously invoked section 105 (s) of the Tariff and Customs Code in taxing imported books," he said in a statement.

"There are billions lost yearly to graft. Why pick on our booksellers and bookreaders? This is 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," Escudero said.

He said that the DOF's order imposing a one percent tax on educational books and a five percent tax on all other imported books goes against the spirit and letter of the Florence Agreement. The order was issued on March 24 and took effect last April 27.

The agreement, which the Philippines signed in 1952, mandates the tax-free importation of books to facilitate the free flow of "educational, scientific, and cultural materials."

Escudero supported the position of the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP) that it is the National Book Development Board (NBDB) and not the Finance Department that should govern and issue guidelines on the importation of books in the country.

The NDBD was created by RA 8047, otherwise known as the Book Publishing Industry Development Act.

"Insular regulations cannot be superior to international obligations. The Florence Agreement has the same force as GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) which Aduana habitués love to recite in tearing down tariff walls whenever it is convenient for them to do so," Escudero said.

"We must honor the letter and the spirit of the Florence Agreement. By imposing this tax, we restrict access to books and indirectly violate section 13 of the Constitution which calls on the government to promote and protect the youth's intellectual well-being," he said.

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