Honorable undersecretaries and other representatives of the Department of Education (DepEd), venerable publishers and members of the book-publishing industry, fellow NBDB board members, the NBDB executive director and other members of the agency … good morning.

Welcome to today’s dialogue, which hopefully can serve as a platform for discussing common concerns, exploring areas of possible collaboration, and tackling other matters of mutual interest. As NBDB chairman, it is my personal wish for this to be first of many constructive and meaningful engagements among the organizations represented here.

To help define the parameters of this today’s dialogue, allow me to quickly retrace the events that led up to today and report related developments. In response to a letter from PEPA (Philippine Educational Publishers Association), BDAP (Book Development Association of the Philippines) and PBDF (Philippine Book Development Federation) about copyright infringement, NBDB met with their officers and representatives on July 9, 2020. Besides copyright issues, we discussed Republic Act (RA) 8047, as well as Executive Order 189 series of 2003 that transferred NBDB under administrative supervision of DepEd. At this point, I repeat my offer to meet with this group and other associations of publishers at least on a quarterly basis.

As promised to the publishers, NBDB met next with DepEd, which was represented by all its undersecretaries and their colleagues, on July 17, 2020. That, too, was a productive meeting where NBDB conveyed the concerns over copyright, and we discussed the role that NBDB should play in the textbook development process as written in RA 8047. On behalf of the NBDB, I committed the agency to be the proverbial bridge between DepEd and the private-sector publishers.

A key takeaway from that meeting is an impression that DepEd is open to discussions on the faithful implementation of RA 8047, and that the Department is willing for NBDB to play a meaningful role in the textbook development process. To me, that seems consistent with DepEd’s pivot to quality education initiated by Education Secretary Leonor Briones, and appears to be part of the program known as Sulong EduKalidad, particularly reform agenda No. 4, the engagement of stakeholders for support and collaboration.

With regard to EO 189, let me share that I had received a letter from Atty. Dominador Buhain in his capacity as president of the Federation. Pardon the informality, but let me report to this body that I have requested the NBDB secretariat to include the matter to the agenda of our next board meeting. Before then, we hope to formally invite Atty. Buhain and other publishers to present to the full board their position on that executive order.

Although the issue merits board discussion, action is required from a higher authority, as suggested by the publishers, from President Rodrigo Duterte himself. I look forward to discussing this later with Atty. Buhain and others at NBDB’s board meeting.

Congress may offer another avenue to tackle EO 189. Recently, NBDB has opened a channel to members of the arts and culture bloc of the House Committee on Education who seem keen in pursuing legislative reforms that would bolster the NBDB’s capacity to carry out its mandate to help in the development of the local publishing sector.

In fact, NBDB is scheduled to meet with members of that bloc, and we have submitted the names of some of those present here today so that they may also participate in that consultation. That meeting presents another opportunity to raise EO 189, along with the other legislative agenda of NBDB, primarily the revision of the definition of books as stated in RA 8047 that would extend the duty-free privileges to electronic books, and other measures to refine that law.

To be clear, I am not leaning toward congressional action. This alternative avenue is merely mentioned because of recent related developments. And as mentioned earlier, the new appointees to NBDB have yet to discuss the issue of EO 189 at the board level.

Let me start winding up so that we may proceed to the presentation of today’s agenda. It is my humble wish that today’s dialogue will focus on constructive ways that help our organizations fulfill their respective mandates and objectives. Of course, we sometimes have to revisit the past, keeping in mind that the effort is meant primarily to understanding present circumstances and marking a place from which we can all move forward with purpose. And as we move toward that direction, it may be more productive to do so not as individual players or institutions or as representatives of the private and public sectors. Our common denominator is that we are all Filipinos hoping to contribute a stone to the national edifice. In doing so, let us be patient. As they say, Rome was not built in day. Obviously, we cannot complete everything in a single event. We may not all express that we wish to share, but as mentioned earlier, this is a process, the first of many dialogues.

My final point is this: a declaration that so long as I am NBDB chairman, that I will spare no effort in working to continue what we have started here today. On behalf of NBDB, I wish you all a productive and constructive dialogue. Thank you.