UPDATE: The tax on books has been lifted thanks to the supporters who mobilized through the blogs, Twitter, Facebook and rallies!
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.
David Archuleta. “Eat Bulaga.” Philippines. The “Book Blockade.” As of this writing, these are the current trending tags on Twitter. A very interesting thing is happening in the Philippines as I post this — American Idol runner up David Archuleta just appeared on “Eat Bulaga” a noontime variety show which caused a huge soar in trending topics for the word Philippines.
Almost instantly, local bloggers and Internet marketers (a lot of US companies outsource SEO and Internet Marketing strategies in the Philippines) picked up the trend and are now crossmarketing the #bookblockade hashtag. For those unfamiliar, this is a recent controversy with their local Bureau of Customs head Espele Sales and the taxation of books, claiming that these are “non educational” and thus do not apply in the 1950 Florence Agreement “allowing for the free trade of cultural Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials, of which the Philippines was a signatory in 1952.” Books are apparently “non educational.” Corruption.
The Philippines has a heavy influence of western culture with English and their local Filipino sharing the spot for the national language. The “book blockade” controversy will make it tons more expensive to import books, which is why the local blogosphere is in uproar, taking advantage of this window of opportunity to be heard.
A more detailed account of the Book Blockade controversy and history can be found in Manolo Quezon’s writing.
Many thanks to David Archuleta’s media clout.
Jayvee Fernandez has done his rounds in blog postings. He served as Technology Channel Editor for b5Media Inc and has founded the leading blog advertising and word of mouth network called BlogBank in the Philippines. And now, he's gone full circle, landing back with The Blog Herald, the resource that gave him his first blogging job in 2005.