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Philippines Minister Proposes a Tax on SMS Messages

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The Philippines Trade Secretary, Peter Favila has proposed adding a tax on SMS text messages to help offset income losses from proposals to end the 12% sales tax on oil products. However, from the tone of the interview, it seems that part of the motivation is less fiscal and more about his "moral" views on the country's considerable SMS culture.

Favila told GMANews in an interview that imposing a tax on short messaging system (SMS) could make Filipinos shift their focus on endeavors that are more productive. "Texting is also a source of negative reason...(and) it makes people more cynical," he said in an ambush interview shortly after the weekly press conference of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

He added that proposals to tax SMS messages had been proposed in the past and that the current Finance Secretary is expected to look favourably upon the proposal this time.

SMS has been extensively used in The Philippines as a platform to spread political messages and publicise public protests against the government. SMS messages were credited with helping to topple the government in 2001, when messages directed 700,000 demonstrators to Manila's People Power shrine to demand the removal of former President Joseph Estrada, who later stepped down in favor of his Vice President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The 2004 election also saw SMS used to try to influence votes - including one hoax message which was passed between phones claiming that President Arroyo was fleeing the country.

Peter Favila was appointed Trade and Industry Secretary by President Arroyo on 14 July 2005.

On the web: GMANews

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Tags: text messages  tax  Philippines