(Report of Atty. Dominador D. Buhain during the PEPA
Meeting on July 20, 1999 at Annabel’s Restaurant)
A couple of weeks ago, President Joseph Estrada received a passing grade for his first year of performance as a national leader. He himself seemed to be apologetic for his lackluster performance giving himself just a passing mark of 75%. There is pressure in being a leader. The past month has placed similar pressures on my shoulder in my capacity as your President. Not really a pressure of being graded for my performance but more pressure to achieve and realize goals I have set for myself, for our Association and for the industry as a whole. I am thankful that PEPA does not issue a report card where my performance should be graded. This Association is indeed built on trust and support among colleagues and fellow publishers.
As your President, I continue to hold a vantage status with the National Book Development Board being one of its Governors. A position through which I can ascertain private sector participation in the decision and policy making of the State regarding the welfare of the industry.
The Government mandates that any policy shift goes through a process of consultation with private publishers and distributors. I am privileged to be your humble representative to ensure that this creed will come to pass.
The month of July will go down in history as the most important for the book publishing industry. It is during this month that the very first National Book Policy has been sanctioned by the Philippine Government. The National Book Policy formulated by the NBDB was approved and adopted by President Joseph Estrada on the afternoon of July 4, 1999. Attended by 200 decision-makers and leaders of the publishing industry, it was a simple ceremony held at the Heroes’ Hall of Malacañang Palace. Nonetheless, its national implication is not at all simple. The Policy not only determines the future circumstances that shall surround the industry but itself is the future of publishing in the Philippines.
Activities in line with the launching of the National Book Policy took place the following day, July 5, 1999.
A week later, yours truly together with the officers of the NBDB and the Instructional Materials Council Secretariat or the IMCS, met with Senator Aquino-Oreta to discuss three proposed bills. The first bill that was proposed shall give rise to a National Book Development Fund. The said Fund has been proposed on the premise set forth by the Constitution on Paragraph (5) Section 5 of Article XIV which states that the State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment. It was determined during this meeting that in order to attain the desired ratio of one book per student, the allocation for textbook procurement program should be at least two billion pesos annually taking into consideration the increasing student population, replacement of old books and the acquisition of new generation textbooks.
The second bill aims to ensure Filipinization in textbook production; that pre-elementary, elementary and secondary textbooks and related materials for Filipino children will be produced and supplied by Filipinos.
Third is the bill to adopt the Retail Price Maintenance and Uniform Discounting Scheme. Records show that Japan, South Korea, Germany and other progressive countries have been adopting the same scheme. Under the said scheme, the publisher shall maintain the retail prices of their products everywhere while giving a uniform discount to book stores. This bill hopes to ensure for the Filipino children affordable, accessible and quality-laden textbooks and related educational materials. A clear guideline on book trade transactions such as this one is a safeguard against corruption and ‘’under-the-table’’ deals in textbook procurement. The Maslog case is indeed a devastating lesson to the industry that must not happen again.
Aside from these developments that involve the Government, yours truly participated in other activities initiated and sponsored by the NBDB. On two occasions on the month of June, the Book Board met with the National Press Forum and discussed past accomplishments of the Board. The meeting with the press on the 25th of June include representatives from different government agencies including the Department of Education Culture and Sports, the Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Finance, and leaders and members from the private sector. These press forums were held at the Century Park Hotel and the Philippine Columbian on June 1 and June 25 respectively.
Early last month, yours truly was again privileged to represent the country in an international gathering of high-caliber publishers from around the globe. The Australian International Book Fair commenced from June 2-6, 1999. These not-so-economical exhibitions and participations at international fairs are slowly paying off. More and more foreign publisher and distributors are taking notice of the excellence of Filipino publications. In fact, the Book Exporters Association of the Philippines or BEAP was recently organized to address the need of the international market. The BEAP has 38 founding member-publishers. Globalization, be it beneficial or not to the national economy, is one challenge we cannot easily shun away. With this note therefore, I wish to encourage members of our Association to seriously consider embarking into the international market arena.
As Chairman of the International Affairs and Legislative Affairs of the NBDB, I was tasked to present a country report during the Australian International Book Fair.
Still concerning the international market scene, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) sponsored a seminar on the Protection of Database Copyright held on June 29 to July 1, 1999. It seems that the international world of publishing is alarmed with the emergence of the information superhighway or the internet. Not a single bit of information may be concealed from the internet thus exposing intellectual properties to infringement and other abuse of property rights. This impending intellectual property concern in virtual reality is one of the major concerns of the WIPO. Ms. Caroline Morgan, Legal Council on Copyright to the Australian Reproduction Rights Organization, was guest speaker.
Discussions were also raised on the proposed establishment of the Philippine Reproduction Rights Organization or PRRO. The PRRO shall be organized in order to ensure a wider coverage and compensation for the intellectual property rights. This early, 35 publisher have signified their intention to affiliate and contribute to the success of the proposed organization.
Going back to activities at the local scene, a Book Writers Seminar/Workshop was recently held at Bacolod City. Academicians, journalists, and leaders in the Visayan publishing scene convened at the ‘’City of Smiles’’ to discuss issues on publishing trends. Topics that were discussed during this fair included Essentials in Manuscript Preparation, Competencies in Textbook Writing, and Legal Issues inBook Publishing among others. National Book Policy and its propagation were also discussed. This seminar is one of the many activities that were and yet will be initiated by the Book Board with the objective of revitalizing the publishing industry in the provinces.
Aside from these activities, my Office has also kept correspondence with the International Publishers Association. In good faith, the IPA returned PEPA’s overpayment to the association amounting to 2,356 francs. A check containing the said amount was issued to the Philippine Educational Publishers Association. The same will be used for paying future annual dues.
The IPA also acknowledged our efforts in moving for the inclusion of a publishing association from Papua New Guinea as a member into the Association. Information also was given regarding the availability of international publishing data at the IPA website. The website is located at www.ipa-uie.org. If you wish to browse information under ‘’Member only,’’ you may do so by encoding ‘’ipa-members’’ as your user name and ‘’book’’ as password.
The efforts of PEPA to eradicate functional and absolute illiteracy through book donations and assistance in the upliftment of libraries through Book Donations Chairman Jerry Catabijan has been recently given cognizance by Mayor Jinggoy Estrada, the President of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
In conclusion, the gratefulness in me for your continuing support and cooperation cannot be exhausted. It is my privilege to sacrifice my personal time and time for my business in order to look into ‘’bigger’’ matters that will downrightly affect the industry. I wish to accomplish more not only for our Association and for our trade but most especially for the Filipino people. Let us be one in this Association in improving our trade: better books, better service for a better country.
Thank you and more power to you as I anticipate for your continued support.