Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Great Book Blockade Finally Really Ends...

...so can I finally get myself a copy of Margaret Weis's and Tracy Hickman's Amber and Blood?

Here's the Recap

Remember just why you suddenly couldn't find the books you were looking for at the local bookstore in '09? Or that if you did find them, they were suddenly so freakishly expensive? It turns out that  Customs was holding said books hostage.  The huge quantities of the book Twilight had apparently attracted the attention of Customs officials who, wanting to increase revenue to meet some sort of quota, slapped taxes on the books. The shipment's importer made the mistake of paying them, emboldening  Customs enough to hold and tax all the other books coming through our ports.

I'd expect everything coming into the country would be subject to some kind of tariff, but it turns out that this country is still bound by the Florence Agreement, which it signed in 1952. Then there was also the matter of Republic Act 8047. In a nutshell, the Agreement keeps signatory countries from taxing, among other things, books. This is something which the RA 8047 supports by creating a National Book Development Plan whose Board is empowered to:

"...(l) import books or raw materials used in book publishing which are exempt from all taxes, customs duties and other charges in behalf of persons and enterprises engaged in book publishing and its related activities duly registered with the Board;..."

Not surprisingly the Department of Finance tried to read the law differently so that they could get away with taxing imported books. To this day I have a bad taste in my mouth when I think of how they tried to make it look like only books for or about book publishing were tax-exempt.

Hopefully all that's in the past, now that outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed Executive Order 885. No books are going to be taxed. For this, at least, she has my eternal thanks.

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notes: While the McSweeny Dispatch article I linked to in the body of this entry pretty much covers just what happened during the Great Book Blockade, Manuel L. Quezon III provides a more in-depth timeline and associated readings  here.

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