UPDATE: The tax on book imports has been liften! Hurrah! Congratulations book warriors!
MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo ordered yesterday the Department of Finance to scrap the taxes imposed on imported books and reading material.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the directive was prompted by a torrent of criticism on the move of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which is under the supervision of the finance department, to impose the duties.
“President Arroyo ordered the immediate lifting of the customs duty on book importation,” Remonde said in a text message to The STAR.
“The President wants books to be within reach of the common man. She believes reading as an important value for intellectual formation, which is the foundation of a healthy public opinion necessary for a vibrant democracy,” he said. [PhilStar]
I found out about the UNESCO’s official reply to the book blockade issue this afternoon. Looking for the document on the Internet (it was easy — just Google the first paragraph), I was able to find it on Scribd, and apparently posted by Manolo.
There are no better words to put it:
Moreover, 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 and therefore run counter to UNESCO’s vision of building an “inclusive” society.
Taxing imported books is tantamount to taxing reading habits. At a time when parents and educators worldwide have expressed alarm on the continuing steep decline in the reading habits and practices especially among the young, the tax measure is counterproductive to current initiatives to rekindle a reading culture. The measure would surely further discourage young and even old minds from appreciating, recognizing and rediscovering the value of reading.
On a bigger scale, I have chosen not to exercise my right as a voter in the past, and it has much to do with abandonment to a system that I personally cannot objectively and realiztically change. I guess the book blockade phenomenon is making me re-think this complacency. The Internet is a game changer.