MANILA, Philippines -- The Organisasyon ng PIlipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) wants performances of "Mamma Mia" stopped if the producers of the touring musical doesn't pay for equity.
On Wednesday, the group led by its officers Ogie Alcasid and Mitch Valdez went to the Bureau of Immigration to seek assistance in collecting up to P1.8 million for the equity clearance of the foreign artists appearing in the musical, which opened on Tuesday night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
According to the group, as per the memorandum of agreement between the BI and the singers' union, foreign artists performing in the Philippines are required to get an equity clearance.
BI spokesman Atty. Tonette Mangrobang, however, said "Mamma Mia" is excempt from this requirement because it is a theater group and that it had the endorsement of the Asosasyon ng Musikerong Pilipino (APM).
Moreover, the lawyer said the musical's producers, Concertus Inc., paid around P300,000 for the special working permits for the 57 artists of "Mamma Mia," which runs at the CCP until February 19.
Asked for comment, Concertus said it had already complied with the requirements and asked not to blow up the issue.
Chuvaness vs. OPM
The issue of equity has proven to be very controversial.
Blogger Cecile Zamora-Van Straten of the popular chuvaness.com website wrote in a post over the weekend, "Ever wonder why Filipinos pay so much money foreign acts in concerts in Manila, even though we sometimes have to stand in the rain in some reclaimed area/parking lot in a god-forsaken place? OPM, that’s why. OPM apparently demands a very high fee from any foreign act performing in Manila."
She went on to urge the group to be "more nationalistic" and consider that foreign acts help boost tourism.
"Whatever happened to 'it’s more fun in the Philippines?' You are actually making it 'more hassle in the Philippines,'” she said.
The post was heatedly discussed by members of the theater community on Facebook.
Elmar Beltran Ingles, an executive director of OPM, also posted a note on the social networking site, in reply to Chuvaness.
"The Philippines is not the only country that levies Equity dues to foreign performers. We only have to look back and recall how Ms. Lea Salonga was subjected to very strict equity rules by both West End and Broadway Equity unions. France and Australia also levy a certain 'displacement fee' that supports local artists affected by visiting ones," Ingles wrote.
"OPM is NOT against foreign artists performing in the Philippines. We have long recognized that the world is increasingly becoming borderless and highly-globalized which augurs well for cultural exchanges between people of all nations. BUT WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO PROTECT OUR OWN ARTISTS AND PRODUCERS by levelling the playing field through policy reviews and actual government support," he added. -- With a report from Alex Santos, ABS-CBN News