Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Law for Authors

Philippine authors and publishers and the reading public have great reason to celebrate.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has just signed into law the National Book Development Trust Fund To Support Philippine Authorship after both Houses of the 14th Congress have passed Republic Act 9521. A milestone piece of legislation in local book development authored by Iloilo City Rep. Raul T. Gonzalez Jr., Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Marikina City Rep. Del De Guzman, and co-authored by several members of the House as well as Senators Edgardo Angara, Allan Peter Cayetano, and Jinggoy Estrada, this law will provide authors from all regions of the country a reasonable amount to complete their manuscripts for publication.

This law will benefit veteran and promising authors working or researching on topics in which local books are either few or non-existent. There are many subject areas in which local books are insufficient in number and variety, and most of the books in our libraries and bookstores are foreign publications.

According to data gathered by the National Book Development Board, the United Kingdom exported £2.23 million (around Php 155 million) worth of books to the Philippines in 2007. The United States exported US$18.89 million worth of books to this country in the same year. Total US book export to the Philippines in 2008 (US$19.20M) was bigger than its book exports to New Zealand (US$12M), Malaysia (US$9.95M), Thailand (US$10.10M), Taiwan (US$15.06M) and Hong Kong (US$18.88M).

With its enactment into law, a Trust Fund of Php 150 million will be established within a period of one year, and the interest from the Fund will provide annually at least fifty (50) grants to authors in all regions in order to spur creativity and support the completion of local manuscripts or research works for publication.

The NBDB shall be the administrator of the Fund and shall appoint a government financial institution as portfolio manager, subject to guidelines and decision-making mechanisms promulgated by the NBDB.

The Trust Fund will assist authors to produce books especially on science and technology, local history, indigenous children’s stories, and translations of classic works into local languages. This will motivate and support veteran and budding authors to produce new titles or complete their manuscripts.

The first Book Trust Fund bills were filed by Deputy Speaker Raul M. Gonzalez and Senator Loren Legarda in the 12th Congress in 2003.

We thank the President for her competent and active appointees to the NBDB, viz. Executive Director Atty. Andrea Pasion Flores, Dep. Exec. Dir. Frances Jeanne Sarmiento, and Governing Board members DTI Usec. Elmer Hernandez, NCCA Chair Vilma Labrador, DOST Asec. Malou Orijola, CHED Commissioner Nona Ricafort, UP Vice-President Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Ateneo Professor Queena Lee Chua, and publishers Alegria Limjoco, Alfredo Ramos, and Roland Robles.

The NBDB hopes that the next President in 2010 will also appoint competent and responsible members of the Governing Board who shall be the ones who shall award the initial grants from the interest of the Trust Fund for Philippine authors.

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