/ 3 December 2023

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian seeks an oversight review on the Book Publishing Industry Development Act (Republic Act No. 8047) in an effort to assess whether the book publishing industry in the country is keeping up with the changing times and rapid digitalization.

“The law that created the National Book Development Board focuses on printed books, but how do you now adapt to digitalization, how do you encourage publishers to go digital, and how do you also improve access to information for the public because everything is digital now?” Gatchalian asked the NBDB during a hearing on the National Reading Month Act.

Atty. Jane Blessilda Fabula from the NBDB’s Office of the Executive Director, admitted that it does not have existing programs supporting the digitalization of books.

The body also said stakeholders have concerns on digitalization owing to copyright infringement issues.

“We plan to conduct an oversight over the NBDB’s mandates, to inquire whether they are in line with the changing world. I also see opportunities for the use of digital books,” Gatchalian added.

The Book Publishing Industry Development Act mandates the NBDB to formulate plans, programs, and operational policies and guidelines for activities on book development, production, and distribution.

The Board’s other duties include the conduct of research on the book publishing industry, including the monitoring, compiling, and providing data and information on book production.

The production of textbooks for public schools, however, faces different challenges.

In a meeting held by the Second Congressional Commission on Education, NBDB Officer-In-Charge Division Chief Kevin Ansel Dy revealed that while the public textbook procurement should only take 180 days, the process really takes three to five years due to a prolonged revision process.

Conflicting comments and the lack of full attention from the Department of Education’s Bureau of Curriculum and Development are among the cited reasons for the prolonged revision process.

The NBDB official also pressed the need for competition in the industry to ensure the availability of good quality materials.

Meanwhile, according to the 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics, about 8 in 100 Grade 5 learners shared their reading and mathematics textbooks with more than two learners.

The study found students who had their own textbooks had better scores in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.