Theater community elated, thankful for Creative Industries Act

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Aug 03 2022 06:05 PM

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MANILA -- “We did it!” 

Rep. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia of the 4th District of Pangasinan told ABS-CBN News on Friday afternoon, July 29, after learning earlier in the day that the Creative Industries Bill, of which he was principal author, lapsed into law.

De Venecia was also reelected chairman of the House special committee on creative industries and performing arts.

Now called the Republic Act No. 11904, or the Philippine Creative Industries Act, it aims to protect the rights, provide more security and benefits to artists, writers, performers, indigenous cultural communities, fashion designers, jewelry and furniture makers, architects, even video game creators, among other stakeholders in the industry.

The law also requires the creation of the Philippine Creative Industries Development Council, the main policy-making body for the industry that will implement the Philippine Creative Industries Development Plan. The council will have 19 members -- 10 ex-officio from government agencies and nine from the private sectors. 

De Venecia told ABS-CBN News he filed the bill in November 2020, when the country was still grappling with massive problems brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

About 10 months later, it was approved on final reading in the Lower House. 

On May 23 this year, the Senate approved the bill on third and final reading during its hybrid plenary session with 21 affirmative votes, no negative vote and no abstention.

The good news was welcomed by the local theater community, whose stakeholders are almost all freelancers. 

Before De Venecia became a public servant, he was an active theater producer and director. He was co-founder of The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical. 

Among the first to react was veteran multi-platform actor Fernando Josef.

Josef, who is artistic director of Tanghalang Pilipino, told ABS-CBN News: “In 1992, we, the Filipino Artists and Cultural Workers celebrated the enactment of the Republic Act 7356, which created the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). That law was what we might call the ‘food for the Filipino artists soul and spirit’. Today, the same sector, plus others who are sympathetic to us is celebrating again with the enactment of this new Republic Act 11904 or the Creative Industries Development Act.”

Josef added, “This new law, hopefully, will be both ‘food for our soul and spirit,’ and ‘food for the stomach,’ too. Sana lang, huwag gamitin ng mga taong gobyerno at ng mga negosyante for their own self-gratification. Let this law be one that will give total benefits to the hardworking, dedicated, selfless, people-centered, nationalist Filipino Artists, art educators and cultural workers.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jenny Jamora (@j2jamora)

Among those who actively lobbied for the bill were members and officers of the Philippine Theater Actors Guild, Inc. or TAG PH. It is a decade-old association of professional theater actors in the Philippines organized to represent theater actors in all kinds of fora deals, including contracts, and assure that their interests are well-represented and protected by the law. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jenny Jamora (@j2jamora)

“TAG PH thanks Hon. Toff de Venecia for his effort and perseverance to make this law happen and involve us stakeholders in the process. We hope the eventual Creative Industries Development Council will continue his vision and collaborate with all sectors, no matter how obscure, to make each sustainable in their own unique ways,” Jenny Jamora, president of TAG PH, told ABS-CBN News. 

Chris Millado, who recently retired as Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) artistic director, said, “This development is groundbreaking for arts and culture industry. Artists will now be able to stake their claim as a driver of economy and be recognized as a sector with its distinct qualities that need to be protected, supported and strengthened with resources and incentives to thrive like any other industry.”

“The enactment of the law will encourage the sustained growth of the arts and culture sector and will make it competitive with other vibrant creative industries in the world. Kudos Cong. Toff who spearheaded this and to all who helped in ushering this into law,” said Millado, who is also festival director for this year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, which starts on August 5 to 14.

Lawyer Judie Rose Dimayuga, a scholar of TP Actors’ Company, told ABS-CBN News, “As a lawyer and a cultural worker, I am elated with the enactment of this law. This law solidifies the reality that art is a profession. It also gives artists additional support which ensures the protection of their rights such as their economic rights and intellectual property rights.”

She added, “That the law requires the organization of Philippine Creative Industries Development Council and that it must be composed of members from the government and private sectors; and that the government will provide the annual funding necessary to implement the provisions of this law, are proofs of the state's recognition that the government and the private sector must work together to ensure that the Philippine creative industries will continue to flourish in our country as well as expand for international recognition.”

When asked further if the law becomes immediately executory, Dimayuga said, “Essentially batas na po siya. However, we must still await for its publication in the Official Gazette or two newspapers of general circulation -- and then from the date of publication, we count 15 days po para maging effective na po sya.”

“It's a Constitutional requirement to ensure that all Filipinos in the Philippines will be given time to be aware of the existence of the law and read its content,” she added.

Michael Stuart Williams, creative director of Full House Theater Company, is thankful for the good news. 

”Congratulations to Congressman Toff for his tireless effort to get this done! It’s been a long time coming, and now this recognition will foster more growth and development and protections for those who are professional practitioners in the creative industries. It is an important recognition of a sector that has long been a strong contributor to nation-building but has largely been ignored,” he said.

Acclaimed playwright Rody Vera is also very much elated of what happened. A veteran not only of the stage but the streets as well, he has been fighting for workers’ rights since Martial Law. 

“Noon pang mga early 2000, I was already saying that for the arts to develop and flourish, government must support it the way it must support the other industries. By giving not only incentives but more to perceive it as an industry that actually develops the economy as well,” he told ABS-CBN News in an online message. 

“Ang daming mga creatives ang lumalabas [ng bansa at ng industriya] kasi hindi makita ng marami na this is a viable industry, comparable to service, manufacturing, agricultural industries. Many of our OFWs are creative artists (singers, performers, and many others.) Hindi nakikita ng gobyerno na maaari itong mag-create ng wealth that contributes to our economy. Sana itong batas na ito will finally fulfill that,” Vera said. 

Audie Gemora, president of Philstage or Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group, the alliance of 16 professional companies in the theatrical arts, said, “Those of us in the performing arts are elated by the passing of the Creative Arts Bill valiantly initiated by Congressman Toff.”

“Many of us practitioners were well consulted and able to give input as it was being drawn. Filipinos are exceptionally creative. It is high time the government recognize that great potential and capitalize on it fully the way Korea has,” he added. 

Gemora is also co-founder of Trumpets, Inc., a three-and-half-decade-old professional gospel theater group. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bart Guingona (@barguin)

Bart Guingona, founder and artistic director of Actor’s Actors Inc./The Necessary Theatre, said, “Of course it’s a real cause for celebration! We’ve been lobbying for this since the Arroyo years and having Toff in the lower house finally made it happen!”

“We’d always been arguing that if this had happened earlier, we would surely have been ahead of South Korean, which early on recognized the potential of the creative industries to wield soft power. I was privileged to have been part of the team to help in the lobbying efforts. Mabuhay ang manililikhang Pilipino!” Guingona added. 

ABS-CBN News tried to gather more feedback from other stakeholders but as of posting, they said they have yet to read the law in full. 

Naturally, De Venecia is the happiest of the recent development. He told ABS-CBN via Facebook Messenger: “We will work with the appropriate government agencies and the private sector to come up with the implementing rules and regulations of this newly enacted law, and ensure that the council is immediately convened, that the secretariat will be assembled to assist in the day to day affairs of the council, and that the programs enshrined in the law will be funded in the 2023 budget, and in the years thereafter.”

“We are confident that with the President’s special mention of the creative industry in his very first SONA as well as the need to institutionalize a policy for freelancer workers welfare, that the creative sector will finally be prioritized in the coming years. Lots of work ahead of us but we must continue to fight for our creative future,” De Venecia added.