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  • The VAT Exemption and its Challenge

    The Expanded Value Added Tax Law has been enacted, and it has retained the VAT exemption of books. When the public hearings on the E-VAT bill began, the National Book Development Board (NBDB ) passed a resolution appealing to our legislators to retain the VAT exemption of books in order to prevent an aggravation of the quality of education and literacy in our country. The NBDB Governing Board supported its resolution with a position paper that was sent to Congress, the Department of Finance, and the press. Thus, we are pleased that our highest policy-makers have accepted the common position of the NBDB, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, and the book industry associations.

    The retention of the VAT exemption is a signal from our policy-makers that they recognize the grave effect of the VAT on the affordability and quality of education and educational materials. In my view, it should be seen as a signal also to all concerned sectors to intensify efforts to protect our learners from the deprivation and perversion caused by poor quality textbooks in basic education.

    For its part, the NBDB has established a rule on the cancellation of the registration of publishers who produce poor quality textbooks. More importantly, the NBDB has launched a Textbook Review Service, the NBDB Quality Seal System, and the annual NBDB Awards for Textbooks during the June 2005 Philippine Book Development Month. Later this year, the NBDB will launch a program of continuous training for textbook writers through seminars and workshops that will upgrade the knowledge and skills of authors initially in the English and Filipino learning areas.

    Sectors like parents, ordinary teachers, and professional academic associations have to do their part to ensure that our children and learners get good textbooks. I believe some school administrators should be called to account for their decision to select textbooks primarily on the basis of price and not of quality, or worse, on the basis of under-the-table arrangements with some publishers.

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