The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) ushers in 2020 with brimming hope as it lays down its numerous projects for the new year. Incentive programs, film labs, film festivals, and film development support programs are among the projects that filmmakers and audiences can look forward to from FDCP. Such spirit of hope is abounding even after the Supreme Court has decided on FDCP’s incentives from amusement tax collections which are awarded to graded films.

Filipino films Graded A and B by the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) will no longer be awarded amusement tax privileges by FDCP, following the December 10, 2019 release of the Supreme Court decision on the collection of amusement taxes. This is an affirmation of the High Court’s decision in 2015 and a conclusion to a decade-long dispute on amusement tax incentives given to CEB-graded films.

Although FDCP will no longer be able to serve and support Filipino filmmakers through awarding monetary incentives from amusement tax collections, it promises to push forth other significant programs for the betterment and improvement of Philippine Cinema.

FDCP has launched FilmPhilippines, a campaign which provides for film incentives schemes to encourage international film productions to shoot and work in the Philippines, thereby activating the film industry and tourism sector. FDCP has kicked off 2020 by accepting applications for the Film Location Incentive Program (FLIP) and International Co-Production Fund (ICOF).

The agency reveals that it will soon be working closely with lawmakers in the country for its proposed film fund and new incentive programs that will replace the awarding of incentives from amusement taxes, with the ultimate goal of sustaining the support given to Filipino filmmakers.

FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño with the speakers and participants of the FilmPhilippines event “FLIP or ICOF? Breaking Down the New FilmPhilippines Incentive Scheme to the Production Companies” on December 12, 2019.

Moreover, FDCP will continue its noteworthy programs such as the International Film Studies Assistance Program (IFSAP), FDCP Film School, First Cut International Lab and region-centric film labs like SOVOLAB, Visayan Visions, and Luzon Panorama to provide Film Development Support; Philippine Embassies Assistance Program (PEAP), Film Cultural Exchange Program (FCEP), and International Film Festival Assistance Program (IFFAP) which aim to promote Philippine Cinema internationally; Sinesaysay Documentary Lab and Showcase, CineMarya Women’s Short Film Festival, SineKabataan, and PlayLab Animation Lab to mainstream alternative forms and formats of audiovisual content; the CineLokal program, International Distribution Initiatives, Festival Partnership Program, and Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino to help address distribution and exhibition of films; the Film Industry Conference and FDCP Project Market to support film industry development; and the ongoing year-long celebration of the One Hundred Years of Philippine Cinema.

Last month, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), FDCP received the Resolution of the Supreme Court En Banc declaring the collection of amusement taxes by FDCP relative to its Cinema Evaluation System under Republic Act 9167 (RA 9167) as invalid and unconstitutional.

In the said Resolution, the Supreme Court denied with finality FDCP’s Motion for Reconsideration and affirmed its prior Decision dated June 16, 2015 declaring Sections 13 and 14 of RA 9167 as a “violation of the principle of local fiscal autonomy since it authorized FDCP to earmark, and hence, effectively confiscate the amusement taxes which should have otherwise inured to the benefit of the local government units (LGUs).”

Section 13 grants amusement tax rewards to producers of Graded A and B films, while Section 14 entitles FDCP to collect the amusement taxes for the graded films from theaters in Metro Manila and highly urbanized and independent component cities. A Grade A film is rewarded with 100% of amusement taxes collected on such film and a Grade B film is awarded 65% of amusement taxes collected on such film, with the remaining 35% going to the FDCP fund.

‘Verdict’ by Raymund Ribay Gutierrez, the Philippine entry to the Academy Awards 2020, was Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board of the Film Development Council of the Philippines.

FDCP clarifies that it will no longer award amusement tax privileges to films graded after December 10, 2019. However, it will continue transacting with the concerned theater branches for the collection of amusement taxes for films graded before the date of the Resolution. FDCP assures that monetary incentives from amusement taxes will be awarded accordingly to producers who applied prior to the finality of the Decision.

While the decision was not what FDCP had hoped for, being the national agency for the development of the Philippine film industry, it respects the Supreme Court’s decision and will abide by it. It has been holding consultations to determine the next steps in light of this development.

The CEB was established by FDCP under the Office of the President, in pursuant of RA 9167 of 2002, to evaluate and grade films submitted to FDCP for quality grading. The CEB is crucial to FDCP’s incentive and reward system that encourages Filipino producers to make quality films.

The dispute on FDCP’s collection of amusement taxes and awarding of incentives was rooted in civil cases filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 5, Cebu City way back in 2009 by the City of Cebu and SM Prime Holdings, Inc., as well as Colon Heritage Realty Corporation, the operator of the Oriente Group of Theaters in Cebu. The RTC Branch 5 in Cebu City declared Sections 13 and 14 as invalid and unconstitutional on September 25, 2012. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court on June 16, 2015, and echoed by the High Court’s final verdict on December 10, 2019.

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