UNESCO finally weighed in on the matter:
“The UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines expresses its objection to the imposition of taxes on imported books and other reading materials. This action is a blatant violation of the provisions of the 1950 Florence Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials of which the Philippines is a signatory as of 07 August 1979. Article 1 of the Agreement provides, “The contracting States undertake not to apply customs duties or other charges on, or in connection with, the importation of (a) books, publications and documents…; (b) educational, scientific and cultural materials…”
John Donaldson, UNESCO Senior Legal Officer based in Paris, stresses, ‘The Philippines, as a Party to the Florence Agreement, must respect the principle Pacta sunt servanda. This fundamental principle of the law of treaties, enshrined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969, provides that treaties in force are binding upon the parties and must be performed in good faith. It follows that if the Philippines decides to apply custom duties or other charges on the importation of materials coming from another State Party, and for which the Florence Agreement foresees an exemption, it will be in breach of its obligations under this Agreement.’ “
I was so looking forward to importing a book and then using that occasion to a random lifestyle check on our Customs Officials. It looks like we need a new way to do it!