If there is an advocacy shared by local authors, publishing industry players and the NBDB that began at the 12th Congress through the 14th Congress, it is the enactment into law of the National Book Development Trust Fund to support Filipino authorship.

This legislative agenda of the NBDB to create a trust fund to support Filipino authorship began when the first Authors trust fund bill was filed at the 12th Congress by then Iloilo Congressman and Deputy Speaker for the Visayas and now Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. At the 13th Congress, said bill was filed by his son, Congressman Raul T. Gonzalez. Jr. at the House with Senators Luisa “Loi” Estrada and Edgardo Angara at the Senate.

On 19 January 2009, the 14th Congress accomplished what the previous Congresses failed to do. Both Houses of Congress have approved the consolidated version of HB No. 4213 and SB No. 2409 and entitled “An Act Creating a National Book Development Trust Fund to support Filipino authorship.
Principal authors and co-authors of the law are: Representatives Raul T. Gonzalez Jr., Rufus B. Rodríguez, Del R. de Guzman, Junie E. Cua, Edcel C. Lagman, Thelma Z. Almario, Laarni L. Cayetano, Carlos M. Padilla, Edgardo M. Chatto, Maria Isabelle G. Clímaco, Jesús Crispin C. Remulla, Carmencito O. Reyes, Marcelino R. Teodoro, Rodolfo G. Valencia, Liza L. Maza, Trinidad G. Apóstol, Mariano U. Piamonte, Mark Llandro L. Mendoza, Isidro T. Ungab, Florencio C. Garay, Arturo B. Robes, Francisco T. Matugas, and Eufrocino M. Codilla Sr., and Senators Allan Peter S. Cayetano, Edgardo J. Angara, Jinggoy E. Estrada, Manny B. Villar, Lito M. Lapid, and Juan Miguel F. Zubiri.

This provides for Php 50M allotment from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) annually for 5 years aside from allotments from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), which will each contribute P5 million a month for ten months or P50 million each to the Fund. Technically, it is now enacted into law and is awaiting signature by the President.

Dr. Isagani Cruz, a former Education undersecretary and founding chair of the Manila Critics Circle said in his Philippine Star column last year that “one of NBDB’s biggest efforts [this year] is to have Senate Bill 2409 passed into law.” He stressed that “the point is to help starving writers, those that write books that publishers will ordinarily not touch (such as books of plays or literary theory, books in vernacular languages other than Filipino, books on local history, or books about scientific experiments or discoveries).”

“We would like to thank the participation and support of the book industry associations, the NBDB personnel, local authors and writers groups, in lobbying for the passing into law of the National Book Development Trust Fund to support Filipino authors,” says NBDB Chairman Dr. Dennis T. Gonzalez. “This will be a new window of opportunity for authors and creative artists who could not avail of limited number of research grants or fellowships and are forced to temporarily abandon their literary or artistic calling or pursue other financially rewarding undertakings,” he adds.

With quality works produced annually by competing authors, the local book publishers will be forced to compete and invest in new talents and new titles. The Philippines being a publishing hub in Asia will soon be a reality.

For the NBDB Executive Director Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores, a book author herself, a trust fund will “boost the annual number of titles produced especially in local history, science and technology, indigenous children’s stories and the translations of classic works into local languages, not only for books written in English.

This will encourage veteran as well as budding authors and book writers to write Filipino books in English or in the eight major local languages or dialects viz. Cebuano, Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), Bikol, Kapampangan, Ilokano, Waray, Tagalog, Pangasinan etc. and eventually create a vibrant book trade in the regions, she adds.

With at least sixty-five (65) grants worth P150,000.00 each per region that will be at stake annually, the NBDB believes it will benefit the right people – deserving writers or researchers in the Philippines who will produce or finish excellent manuscripts on a variety of topics or subject areas for publication that will eventually benefit the book-reading Filipinos.

The NBDB will act as fund administrator and would soon hold consultations on the law’s implementing rules and regulations or (IRR). –Edgardo P. Sabalvoro