Phillipine Customs Breaking New Ground in Educational Theory

The Florence Agreement of 1950 attempts to stem restrictions on the circulation of knowledge via books. In the Philippines, the government has recently given to the world a new understanding of the scope of the agreement, based on a more critical reading of the text. According to the Customs Undersecretary, the Agreement only applies to educational books, and, no surprise here, Customs is the body best able to make that determination. Perhaps they are well versed in the field. There seems to have been some interesting work done ((Such as HARSKAMP, E. and SUHRE, C. (1992). ‘Psychometrische kwaliteiten van meetinstrumenten van het onderwijsaanbod’ [‘Psychometric qualities of instruments for measuring educational content’], Tijdschrift voor Onderwijsresearch, 17, 355–369, cited in Timmermans, R. E. and van Lieshout, E. C. D. M.(2003)’Influence of instruction in mathematics for low performing students on strategy use’,European Journal of Special Needs Education,18:1,5 — 16)).

As reported in McSweeney’s, the Undersecretary also had to do some careful reading of her own laws:

Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government’s position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for “the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing.” For lack of a comma after the word “books,” the undersecretary argued that only books “used in book publishing” (her underlining) were tax-exempt.

Now that’s incisive thinking! But, I wonder, are not books sold by publishers “books used in book publishing”? I knew I should have been a lawyer! Part of the story is the resistance and organizing being created online. For updates, see the Philippine Online Chronicles, this link, and this one. via Metafilter.


  1. To add to your links, an editorial on all this new legalisms: A Nation of Idiots