Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri on Monday vowed to oppose the provisions on the TRAIN 2 bill that will tax books and other reading and learning materials.
Zubiri said that the tax exemption on these items should stay because books are an integral part of education and learning.
“We should keep books as affordable and accessible as possible. The Internet cannot replace the value of reading and the literacy skills that accompany it. Books should remain tax-free period,” he said.
It was earlier reported that the version of the Trabaho bill in the Senate contains a proposal to repeal Section 12 of Republic Act No. 8047, or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act enacted in 1995.
The said provision exempts books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, including book publishing, printing, distribution and circulation, from the expanded value-added tax.
Once the bill is enacted into law, tax would then be imposed on said goods and services.
For his part, Senator Sonny Angara has assured that his committee will not touch any provision that grants incentives and tax exemptions to the book publishing industry.
Under House Bill 8083 or the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities (TRABAHO), Section 12 of Republic Act 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act of 1994 is repealed. RA 8047 was authored by the late Senate President Edgardo Angara.
This means that incentives, including VAT and customs-duty exemption, on importation of raw materials for book publication will be removed, which may result to higher prices of books.
Local publishers will only continue to enjoy incentives on importation of raw materials if the book publication is in the Strategic Investment Priority Plan of the Board of Investments.
Despite the proposed repeal, sale and importation of books will still be VAT- and customs-duty free under the Tax Code and the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
“My father authored such law because he believed that the book publishing industry plays a vital role in national development. He used to say that books are the most effective and economical tools for achieving educational growth,” said Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee.
The Philippine Book Publishing Development Federation (PhilBook) has recently presented a posthumous recognition of the late Angara for being the primary author of RA 8047.
“Due to this law, the publishing and printing industries became vibrant. The number of authors, writers, book publishers, importers, booksellers, printers, editors, illustrators, designers, lay-out artists, translators and literary agents has increased,” PhilBook stated.
Meanwhile, Angara lamented the declining number of Filipino readers in the country.
An SWS survey on the reading habits of Filipinos showed that the number of Filipino adult readers of books declined from 90% in 2003 to 80% in 2012.
The same survey also showed that majority of Filipino readers borrow or receive books as gifts rather than buy one for personal use.
Following the House of Representatives’ approval of TRABAHO Bill, the Senate ways and means committee is set to conduct its first hearing on September 25.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bam Aquino renewed his commitment to work on access to quality education for every Filipino and emphasized the important role that teachers play in achieving this goal.
“We are pushing for free education in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and additional scholarship in private university because we believe that education is important, “ said Aquino.
“Ang isang mahalaga sa pagpapaunlad ng bayan ay edukasyon. Education for all. Mahalaga na mayroon kang dalang armas na edukasyon,” added Aquino, principal sponsor of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
He underscored the role of teachers in the further improvement of the quality of education in the country and in nation building.
As senador, we have seen that the most important aspect of education is our teachers. Based on studies, the quality of education depends on the ex ellen e of a teacher.
“So you can expect help from us in the Senate for our teachers to better improve the quality education,” Aquino added.
Aquino has pushed for the passage of Republic Act 10931 during his term as chairman of the Committee on Education in the 17th Congress.
Republic Act 10931 provides free tuition and miscellaneous fees to students in state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges (LUCs) and TESDA-run vocational schools.
Additionally, the law allows students of both public and private college and universities can also apply for scholarship grants and student loans.
Earlier, Aquino reminded SUCs that collection of mandatory and miscellaneous fees from students is illegal with the implementation of RA 10931.