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.
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: BOCCommissioner@customs.gov.ph
- National Book Development Board (their purpose stated here), e-mail: email@example.com
- Secretary of Education Jesli A. Lapus, contact here
- National Commission for Culture and the Arts Vilma Labrador, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!