(RAPPLER) MANILA, Philippines – Senator Jinggoy Estrada called on the government to revive the “ailing” Filipino film industry, proposing the removal of the amusement tax and the provision of subsidies for film workers.
In a privilege speech on Tuesday, November 8, Estrada laid out what he described as “the abysmal state of our local film industry.” Citing theater group operators, Estrada said that only nine out of 20 movies reviewed by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) have been released since January.
“Nakapanlulumong isipin na may panahon na umaabot sa tatlong daan ang napo-produce na pelikula kada taon (It’s depressing to think that there was a time that there would be some 300 films produced in a year). Now it’s not even a fraction,” he said.
High taxes, high prices
Citing Film Development Council of the Philippines chairman Tirso Cruz III, the senator said that to make a “quality film,” producers spend P10- to P30 million pesos and they need to earn some 270% more to recoup their budget.
“Konti na lang ay katumbas na ito ng arawang kita ng mga minimum wage earners na nasa P316 to P537 kada araw (A little bit more and these would cost as much as the daily salary of minimum wage earners at P316 to P537 daily),” he said.
Estrada then proposed the scrapping of the amusement tax, saying “the revenue collections from amusement taxes are relatively insignificant as compared to other types of taxes.”
“Naniniwala ako na hindi malaking kawalan ito sa kita ng gobyerno. Sakali man na tanggalin ito, maaari natin ito na mabawi dahil kung mapapasigla natin ang entertainment industry, lalaki ang labor force at lalago ang industriya na maaaring mapagkunan ng mga tinatawag na recoupment tax gaya ng business tax or business permit para sa mga local governments, corporate income tax ng mga bagong korporasyon, withholding tax sa mga manggagawa sa industriya, at lalago ang consumption tax o VAT,” he said.
(I believe that this won’t be a big loss to the government’s income. In case this is removed, we can earn it back because if we revive the entertainment industry, the labor force will grow and the industry will thrive, allowing us to get what they call a recoupment tax like business tax or business permit for local government, corporate income tax for new corporations, withholding tax for film workers, and consumption tax or VAT will grow.)
He also suggested following the practice of countries like South Korea and Malaysia by enforcing screen quotas – a minimum number of days that a movie will be shown in theaters – to maintain the exposure of local films.
Provide subsidies, promote Filipino tourism
Again taking inspiration from the South Korean film industry, Estrada also suggested that the government provide subsidies to the film industry “just like the investments made by the South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to fund a five-year plan (2015 to 2019) for their domestic animation and character industries.”
“It provided support to start-up operations through a new state facility and automatic subsidies to established animation studios based on the performance of their earlier projects,” he said.
On top of providing tax breaks for the film industry, Estrada’s other proposals include encouraging the promotion of Filipino culture and tourism in content and providing scholarships and learning opportunities for filmmakers and other workers.
“We are replete with world-class artists and on many occasions, Filipino filmmakers and artists brought honor and pride to the country by winning top prizes in international film festivals around the world,” Estrada said, noting the success of filmmaker Brillante Mendoza, and actors Jaclyn Jose and John Arcilla in international festivals.
“Naniniwala ako na kaya nating makipagsabayan sa mga gawang banyaga, ngunit aminado ako na kailangan ng industriya ng suporta ng gobyerno (I believe that we can keep up with foreign-made films, but I admit the industry needs the support of the government),” Estrada said.
Estrada, an actor himself, previously spoke about reviving the film industry in October, but drew flak for bringing up the idea of banning K-dramas to make way for Filipino-made content. In his privilege speech, he said that his statement had been “magnified and even misconstrued.”
His latest privilege speech was backed by Senators Bong Revilla and Robin Padilla, both actors, as well as Senator Grace Poe, the daughter of late screen icon Fernando Poe Jr, and Senator Francis Tolentino.
“The industry needs concrete plans and tangible support to restore its vigor. We have to invest in the industry – tap into the potential of our local talents, create a competitive environment where both big and small players thrive, and educate creators so they can fully utilize their intellectual properties,” Revilla said, while calling for support for two of his priority bills: Senate Bill No. 28, or the Revival of the Philippine Movie Industry Act; and SBN 1049, or the Philippine Film Commission Act.
Tolentino highlighted the importance of providing subsidies to the film industry, saying, “I agree that there is a need to overhaul existing subsidies being given to the local film industry and not just through a short film festival. Perhaps the good chairperson of the Mass Media Committee can craft a bill that would overhaul and enhance the local movie industry.”
Meanwhile, Poe said that providing incentives would create more jobs for Filipino talents who have been affected by the pandemic.
“Not only will it provide jobs but it will also promote the industry,” she said. “One film showcasing the beauty of the Philippines, that’s millions of dollars that we save on advertising.”
She then pushed for the passage of Senate Bill no. 867 or the Philippine Film and Television Tourism Act of 2022, which she filed in July.
Padilla, in an ABS-CBN report, echoed Estrada’s call for tax breaks, saying “Ang dami po naming tax na binabayaran…. Sana po dumating ang punto na kami po ay mabigyan ng industriya na makahinga lang (We are paying so many taxes. I hope the time comes that the industry is given time to breathe).”