Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Love books? Then get ready to scream in FURY!

There's a new atrocity our government is imposing on us Filipinos. Taxes will be levied on all imported books--1% for educational books and 5% for non-educational books. That's on top of the 12% VAT we're already paying. The hugely popular Twilight Saga of Stephenie Meyer whetted the appetites of our customs officials and they promptly decided they can make crazy money from each of the tens of thousands of Twilight books that Filipinos devour.

There's an international treaty that says books--educational or not--should be imported in all nations tax-free. Our government has decided to go against the treaty so that (if you're rich) they can squeeze more money from us and (if you're poor) keep our brains empty at the same time. It's a brilliant maneuver of an extremely corrupt government. It's also stunning in its stupidity.

Now, Vince and I love books. We read and write the way people eat and drink. Books are not a hobby; books are our life. And if we have one mission in life, it's that we want every person in the entire Philippines to build personal libraries the way we are slowly and joyfully doing. Each Filipino home should have at least one room filled with beloved books, to be read over and over again and be passed down to children.

Our modest library
(there's more books in the living room and the bedroom!)

With this new customs policy, this dream will never come true. What will remain true is the enduring ignorance of the Filipino masses. This breaks my heart. Because I came from a poor family, but books opened my mind and fed my soul, they made me dream, and made it possible for me to get out of the poverty and make my dreams come true. Books can do that--textbooks and otherwise! How can the next generation have a chance if our government makes it impossible for them to read?

Please write about this in your blog. Please write to the following:
  • the media, especially TV and radio, so that they can bring attention to this matter
  • Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales, the woman who decided that books should be taxed (I cannot find any mention of her on government pages, though)
  • Bureau of Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, e-mail:
  • National Book Development Board (their purpose stated here), e-mail:
  • Secretary of Education Jesli A. Lapus, contact here
  • National Commission for Culture and the Arts Vilma Labrador, e-mail:
  • National Commission for Culture and the Arts Commissioner Ambeth Ocampo, e-mail: e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
I don't know who else to write to and how to do it most effectively but if we need to write to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself, then let's do so!

To learn more, please read columnist Manuel L. Quezon III's article and University of Iowa Non-Fiction Writing Program Director Robin Hemley's report.

UPDATE: Correction--Espela Sales is the Undersecretary of Finance. I am ashamed to say we share the same last name!


  1. hi frances. thanks for this info. pati pa naman ang books pagkakaperahan ng mga ito. books are not vices naman ah. i will definitely talk about this in my blog. nakakasira ng bait talaga ang corruptions dito.

  2. amazing government really!!!
    amazing! whenever it's about adding taxes, they're aggressive...

  3. This is crazy! I can't believe that any government would do this.
    Thanks for opening my eyes to this I will do some further reading on the subject!

  4. that is outrageous! being a voracious reader myself, i already fork a lot of cash for my beloved books every payday and i don't need an added expense! let's face it, books (especially foreign titles) are pricey enough as it is, and adding more tax to these books are enough to make the bookstores go bankrupt!

    *sigh* there goes my dream of having my own library... :(

  5. this is bullcrap!!!! crap! crap! crap!

  6. To everyone, you are all correct--books are expensive as it is (with the VAT!) and now with more taxes and/or the booksellers needing to bribe customs, book costs will soar. And even if we buy abroad, customs will levy fees as soon as we bring them in! CRAZY!

    In Malaysia, I read that you can show your book receipts to their tax department, and they will deduct it from your taxes. That's because Malaysians think that books are great!

  7. I googled this up and found this thread on multiply. Some vigilant readers have already taken action and spoke to Sales herself. Please read her explanation as told to a concerned book lover just like us.
    Click the link below:

  8. In my opinion that is one of the worst things of being a Pinoy! Everything has a price. Or like what Jarminator had said, pinagkakaperahan. And I don't see any use for those taxes for books huh! To think that books are brain food (which by far should come as the cheapest form) once this BS customs ruling comes up, a lot of brains will get more and more malnourished.

    Sometimes, some Pinoy government officials are actually damn idiots. Just that evident that they don't read their books much to know what the purpose of something really is. They simply implement something for the purpose of profit and fat pockets.

  9. "She was particularly disturbed at allegations of "corruption", because she said she is also head of the DOF's Revenue Integrity Protection Service..."-- from

    still sounds fishy to me. it still proves that Government Officials will weave words and look for the smallest of loop holes just to squeeze more money out from the people. how sad! sabi nga ng iba, failippines daw. tssss

  10. Hello, Frances and to all. I've already blasted the situation on my political reform blog (

    Yes, I'm on a personal campaign for political reforms, public education being one of them.

    Now we know what Jose Rizal meant when he advocated public education, among others, and got shot for it.

    This just feels like the Spanish government ban on Noli and El Fili. It's time that we band together and help get rid of the corruption in our society once and for all. La Nueva Liga Filipina is coming to town, and you're welcome to get onboard and lend a hand. Y'all take care now.

  11. This is unbelievable and unacceptable. There are so many other stuff they should concentrate on to raise funds instead of imposing stupid, unnecessary taxes. Like monitoring and controlling the spending habits of government officials!

    I posted a link to this on my facebook. :)

  12. Hi. It's me again. Undersecretary Espele Sales is with Department of Finance, not Bureau of Customs.

    You can email your petitions to the DOF's corporate affairs group at

    "Poverty is the worst form of violence." -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

  13. hi frances!!

    thanks for the added info! crazy government of ours... adding fees on the importation of books... a total crime to our beloved book-lovers society being an avid fan of the turning pages myself... will post this on my facebook.

  14. now that's just marvelous. now more people will be illiterate because books will be obscenely expensive!

  15. I cannot believe it, a tax on books? Ugh.

  16. Excellent, our government officially reached a whole new level of corruption. It's one thing to steal people's money, but to rob them of their education is just plain unforgivable.

  17. been working on the entry for a few days now. up by tonight.

  18. Sorry, I just noticed the title to this post and had to stop by. I can't imagine what they can possibly gain by adding taxes to books! This would really hurt my habit of buying books. Reading is a way that I relax... in fact I am getting ready to finish "Cornfield Heiress" by Errollynne Peters in just a few minutes. Without reading I would be so lost! Thanks for the heads-up, I am going to look do some more reading on this. It is just crazy that a government would do this!

    for me

  19. Hi! Thanks everybody for the reactions. I hope you've all blogged about it and written to the proper authorities! Vigilance!!!

  20. Taxes on book imports lifted


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