Tuesday, June 16, 2009

P.E.N. Calls for Abolition of Tax on Imported Books

The Philippine Center of the International PEN (Poets & Playwrights, Essayists & Novelists), led by National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera (chair) and F. Sionil Jose (founder and chair emeritus), has issued a resolution calling for the scrapping of Department of Finance Order 17-09, which levies duties on imported books.


While Malacanang has suspended the order, writers, and publishers are afraid that the tax would be re-imposed soon.


Text of the resolution is as follows:


We, The BOARD of DIRECTORS and members of the Philippine center of the International PEN, invoking the international PEN charter, join the many other sectors of our society in denouncing the Department of Finance Order 17-09, which imposes duty on the importation of books.


We believe that “literature though national in origin knows no frontiers, and should remain common currency between nations in spite of political or international upheavals” (Article 1, PEN Charter)


We, as a worldwide organization founded in London in 1921, consisting originally of Poets & Playwrights, Essayists, and Novelists, but now also of Journalists & Historians, were organized precisely and principally to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere.


We are of the firm conviction that literature plays a crucial role in developing world culture and global understanding, and that the most accessible way of spreading thoughts and ideas, vision and imagination along this line in through books: “PEN stands for the unhampered transmission of such thoughts and ideas through books between nations all over the world” (Article IV, PEN Charter). To be left behind will certainly not be good for our youth and our country.


Moreover, the unenlightened and misinformed Department Order violates the Florence Agreement, an international treaty the Philippines signed in 1952. It also violates Republic Act 8047, the Book Publishing Industry Development Act passed in 1995.


The Philippine Center of International PEN joins other writer groups and publisher associations, and the general reading public, in urging the Department of Finance, to permanently withdraw—and not just suspend—Department Order 17-09, so as to finally allow the continued duty-free importation of books.