Saturday, May 23, 2009

Send protest emails to usec estela sales ( and unesco (

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, May 23, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Protest against book blockade

Books are very much a part of my life. I always say that I have my own library at home and the books are all over my house. And so my friend Rene Mayol would always correct me, "You live in a library." I have read all my books (except those on the staircase). Wherever I travel, I buy books also. From my recent South African trip, I managed to bring home only four of my books (by SA authors) because of baggage weight limitation. I still have books left in the care of a friend.

I don't always buy new books. There are a lot of very good books that are sold in used-book stores like Book Sale. In Berkeley, California, being a university town, there are many bookshops that sell books discarded by students after using them for a semester. You also get the bonus of reading the notes they took in their class.

Last year, I attended the Book Expo America in Los Ange les. Wow! I went gaga with all the books on display. I brought home a Balikbayan box filled with books I got for free for the five hours that I went around the Expo. And I only went to about seven rows of publishers booths. If I were not going to San Diego to attend ASTD 2008, I would have gone back the next day and gotten more books. Unfortunately this year, BEA (New York) and ASTD 2009 Conference & Exposition (D.C.) will be held on the very same dates. I am going to ASTD.

I grew up with books. I was a regular at the library and when I was in college, I worked at the Manila City Library. Heaven!

Upon receiving her doctoral degree, a friend tried hard to convince me to pursue similar studies on organization development. I asked her if she has read such and such books and if she has had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with authors like Jim Collins, Robert Kaplan, Peter Senge, Arie De Geuse, Bob Pike, Ken Blan chard, Malcolm Glad well, Marcus Buckingham and many other gurus. She said no, and was even unaware of many of the books I mentioned. I have all those books and have at one time or another chatted with the authors in person.

And now, here comes Undersecretary Estela Sales wielding her power unilaterally and the next minutes—boom!—books are now taxed.

One big reason many global organizations set their offices or plants here or hire employees from this country is because we have very competent, talented, innovative, well-informed and English-speaking people. This is due, among others, to the availability of television shows, books and publications from all over the world.

So Usec Sales wants to push us back to the medieval times and reduce us all to one word: "igno ramus." And take note, hers is a unique interpretation of UN Florence Agreement. Only in the Philippines.

And so, book readers, publishers, bookshop entrepreneurs, even ordinary citizens, are aghast, disgusted and angry at how our civil servants are serving us. This issue is becoming the Arroyo government vs. the Filipino people.

One columnist wrote that doing so will force us to read Filipino authors, just like the Filipino Film Festival forces people to watch Filipino movies for a week? Huh, where did she come from?

I have many books by Filipino authors—business, recipe, poetry, coffee table, etc. Nobody forced me to buy them. I appreciate books not because of the nationality of their authors but because of the content, the research that went into the making of the book, the writing style and my take away from them.

I will not buy more Filipino-authored books just because imported books are more expensive with the additional taxes. But I will be forced to buy less.

I am really wondering what got into the mind of Usec Sales or whoever ordered her to impose taxes on books?

Or maybe I wouldn't mind these taxes so much if I know that the money collected will be returned to the people in terms of better service and solid projects that will benefit the people. The question is, in whose pocket would the tax money end?
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