Monday, May 25, 2009

Victory! But now what?

In a rare display of headline sobriety, the local news outfits called it correctly: Taxes on book imports lifted, said the Philippine Star. Elsewhere, of course, the mood is more exuberant as Bloggers proclaim far and wide: "Great Book Blockade Broken!"

Hooray. Hooray. Hooray. But now what? If it's back to business as usual, then the lessons of this lunacy would have been lost. Despite its formidable name, the Great Book Blockade wasn't actually a war, it was just a skirmish.

If you think about it, the Great Book Blockade, already far from being great, can hardly be called a blockade, either. No books were actually banned during the time it was in effect. Shipments were delayed, but they eventually went through the official bureaucracy, not through blockade runners.

If at all, books would have been priced higher, but no one, as far as I can tell, ever had cause to actually complain about that.

The only reason why it would have been called the Book Blockade is for its alliterative appeal. The only reason it could have been called Great was because the proponents of the term have not actually lived through a good and proper blockade. Whatever will they call the next episode when it comes around?

Even its resolution calls for some pause. It looks and feels like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has struck a blow for book-lovers everywhere. Remember: it was her Secretary of Finance that imposed the tax in the first place, and being a cabinet position, it was, effectively, an extension of her office. If she caved, it was because it was an opportunity to look good, not to acknowledge the DoF's and the BoC's violation of the Florence Agreement. It cannot be properly called a victory without censure of these offices' flawed interpretation of the law.

If any good has come out of all this, it's been to put the spotlight on the advocates of reading in this country and to show how strongly they feel about the issue. Admirable, too, are the efforts to awareness and for the first time to actively and publicly promote reading.

On the flip side, though, it's also shown that these advocates, though vocal, are decidedly few and in fact limited largely to the Facebook and Twitter class. Unless they can use the momentum from this victory to promote real change -- for example, pushing funding for more libraries, promoting literature among the young, circulating more books -- then they're just setting themselves up for the Real Book Blockade.


  1. Hey, Dom. Hope you're recuperation from the bike crash has been well. Regarding this issue, my girlfriend raised a salient point: what happened to USec Sales? How come no one's been clamoring for her head on a platter over this?

  2. Hey, Mike, feeling better, thanks for asking. Regarding your question, as usual in this country, incompetence gets rewarded. That's just a guess, though.

  3. Hmmmm, is there anyway for us to find out? Cause a furor?

    My gf put forward the idea that in more enlightened countries, we wouldn't have let it slide. re: recent resignations in English parliament.