Customs Memorandum Order No. 25-2011

Click on the images below to go to the full sized pages.

OK, this isn’t a full-blown analysis yet, and so I reserve the right to tweak my opinions later (and hey, if I’m wrong, I’d love to be educated), but let’s talk.

First off, the CMO cites the wrong  Executive Order. What it should say in 2.7 is Executive OrderNo. 885 — not 855. You can find that EO here, along with its annex, which was also attached to the CMO.

Reading the CMO, it could be argued that it shouldn’t apply to regular books, imported by regular consumers, at all. Why? Let’s look at the scope of the CMO, in reverse order:

  • Importations of Books by non-stock, non-profits – I’m not considering NSNPs to be regular consumers, so let’s skip that first.
  • Books or raw materials to be used for book publishing under RA 8047 – Whatever your stance is on the applicability of RA 8047 with regard to books that aren’t about/for publishing, Section 2.4 of the CMO makes it clear that as far as the BOC is concerned, this category only applies to an importer who is also a book publisher. Again, has no application to someone having a copy of “Twilight” shipped.
  • Educational, scientific and cultural materials under the Florence Agreement – as I previously pointed out, under Article 1 of the Florence Agreement, “Books, publications and documents” are separate and distinct from “Educational, scientific and cultural materials”. They are even subject to separate Annexes in the Florence Agreement. So this category SHOULD NOT apply to books, especially since, as per the Reading Guide on the UNESCO page: “The exemption granted to books is not subject to any qualifications as to their educational, scientific and cultural character.”

None of the above categories then, would seem to be applicable to a customer importing a book or two from abroad, or, to be frank, even a huge book chain importing the latest bestseller in bulk.(It also casts a bit of a different slant on the reply sent to Oli by UNESCO Philippines–note that they don’t mention “books” so it’s possible that their position is in favor of the need for certification of “materials” and not “books”.

Now, does the BoC indeed to apply the CMO to Juan de la Booklover? I think so, based on how they seem so proud that they’ve “rationalized” book importation, and based on their mention of books, newspapers etc. in Section 2.6. So we still have a fight on our hands. But short term, this CMO looks defective, or, at least, ill though out. I’ll need to look at EO 885 and a few other laws, but, paraphrasing from my letter to UNACOM:

The imposition of excessive regulations on a benefit stifles the enjoyment of said benefit, and is especially onerous to the poor, who are precisely the parties most in need of it. With all due respect, to require a book importer to submit documentation to a government office every time he/she wants to acquire books from abroad, demands too much in the way of time and resources, especially if the importer is not based in Metro Manila, and if the importer is an individual buying one or two books at a time, as opposed to a corporation engaged in bulk importation. The Florence Agreement was created precisely to ensure “the free exchange of ideas and knowledge and, in general, the widest possible dissemination of the diverse forms of self-expression”, and a procedure wherein a book must somehow be further “qualified” before being released duty-free by customs chokes this exchange of ideas, for no comparable gain on the part of the government.

As for the long term? I have the go ahead to draft a bill. The boss and I will be counting on everyone’s support ok?


One response to “Customs Memorandum Order No. 25-2011

  1. John Shillingford

    Any tax on books is wrong. Any more red tape for businessmen is wrong. Penalizing students for their love of reading is wrong. I cannot think of an easier way to take the Philippines back to the dark ages. They’ll be burning books soon. What’s going on here ? One can only guess at their motives. Come on DOF, Come on Alvarez, THINK what you are doing to your country.

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