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Writers, publishers urge Senate: Leave books out of tax bill

Amid ‘Trabaho’ bill’s tax on books, Gintong Aklat awards handed out
By: - Staff Writer
/ 03:15 AM September 24, 2018

Writers’ and publishers’ groups have urged the Senate to dump a proviso in the proposed “Trabaho” tax reform law that will repeal the value-added tax (VAT) exemption of books and publications.

They warned that the proposed law violates the Florence Agreement signed by the Philippines that encourages the free flow of books and publications across countries.


Known as the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities or “Trabaho” bill (Senate Bill No. 1906 filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III) seeks to reduce corporate taxes ostensibly to encourage business and investments.

But it tries to make up for the loss of government revenues by repealing 123 special laws and investment tax incentives.


To be repealed

Among those to be repealed is Section 12 of Republic Act No. 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act of 1995.

Section 12 exempts books and publications from expanded VAT coverage.

The Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets & Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists), whose members include writers, authors and publishers, said the proposed “Trabaho” law violates the Florence Agreement of 1950.

“(T)he Florence Agreement, ratified by 100 countries, including the Philippines, ensures the free flow of educational, scientific and cultural books and other publications between and among countries,” PEN said in a statement. “This means they are not levied customs duties as they move from country to country.

Significant role

“That is also why,” PEN added, “at the heart of our own RA No. 8047, which established the National Book Development Board, is Section 12, Incentives for Book Development. It recognizes the significant role of the book publishing industry in national development, that books are ‘instrumental in the citizenry’s intellectual, technical and cultural development—the basic social foundation for the economic and social growth of the country.’”


PEN said taxing books would run counter to the intent of the “Trabaho” bill to reform the tax system ostensibly to promote business and employment.

PEN said books play a critical role in education and the economy.

“Books, despite technological developments, are still the most effective and economical tools in growing education, disseminating information and preserving and enriching the nation’s cultural heritage,” said PEN.

“Precisely enshrined in Republic Act No. 8047 is the commitment to promote and support the book publishing industry so that it can make available all of the time enough affordable, quality-produced books for both the domestic and export markets.

“We therefore appeal to the Senate to reconsider repealing Section 12 of RA No. 8047 and that we remain a ratifier of the Florence Agreement as we were 68 years ago,” declared PEN.

Heads of PEN

The Philippine PEN is headed by National Artists for Literature F. Sionil José and Bienvenido Lumbera and it includes the heads of important publishing houses and university presses, such as Andrea Pasion Flores of Anvil Publishing and Karina Bolasco of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Press.

Gintong Aklat

Amid the alarm raised by government’s plan to tax books, the Book Development Association of the Philippines’ (BDAP) gave out the 2018 Gintong Aklat Awards last Sept. 13 at the 39th Manila International Book Fair at SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City.

On everyone’s minds was “Trabaho” bill.

BDAP president Ani Rosa Almario said despite the threat of taxing books, the evening was an opportunity to celebrate publishing in the Philippines.

First established in 1981, the Gintong Aklat Awards are managed by the BDAP and reward “all-around excellence,” and “book quality, design and content.” Only “bona fide publishers engaged in publishing as their main line of business” qualify for the Gintong Aklat Awards.

Queena N. Lee-Chua, who writes the column “All in the Family” for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, received the Gintong Aklat Award for Inspiration and Self-Help for coauthoring the book, “Lifeline: A Layperson’s Guide to Helping People in Crisis,” from Anvil Publishing Inc. The other authors are Lourdes Joy Galvez Tan, Melissa R. Garabiles, M. Tonirose de Guzman-Mactal and Mary Jane Bergado-Flores.

“Mental health cases are on the rise, particularly in young people. We at the Ateneo have been responding to this situation for several years now,” Chua told the Inquirer later. “Through ‘Lifeline,’ we hope to share what we do with those who need such guidance.”

The Best Design Award went to “Sacada: A Catalog of Commodities From a Period of Glorious Tumult,” written and designed by Alan Navarra, published by Visprint Inc.

Other winners

Literature in English: “All my Lonely Islands” by V.J. Campilan (Anvil) and “Aimless Walk, Faithful River/The Poet Learns to Dance, the Dancer Learns to Write a Poem” by Simeon Dumdum Jr. (Ateneo de Manila University Press);

Literature in Filipino: “Sacada: A Catalog of Commodities From a Period of Glorious Tumult” by Alan Navarra (Visprint) and “May Tiktik sa Bubong, May Sigbin sa Silong,” edited by Allan Derain (ADMU Press);

Arts and Humanities: “Bamboo Whispers: Poetry of the Mangyan” edited by Lolita Fansler, Quintin Pastrana, Raeba Abella and Emily Catapang (The Bookmark Inc.);

More citations

Food: “Philippine Food, Cooking and Dining Dictionary” by Edgie Polistico (Anvil);

Natural and Applied Science: “Fr. Manuel Blanco’s Flora de Filipinas” edited by Dr. Domingo Madulid (Vibal Foundation Inc.);

Science and Technology: “Science Philippines: Essays on Science by Filipinos Vol. IV,” edited by Gisella P. Padilla-Concepcion (University of the Philippines Press);

Social Science: “The World of the Manila-Acapulco Galleons: The Global and Human Context” by Sen. Edgardo J. Angara and Dr. Carlos Madrid (Vibal).

Emcees were author-publishers John Jack Wigley and Segundo Matias Jr.

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