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PERFORMERS EQUITY PROGRAM

IN THE PHILIPPINES
Written by: Ma. Dinah A. Remolacio
Executive Director, OPM
Presented by: Herminio Ogie Alcasid Jr.
President, Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit

Background and Rationale


What happens when a foreign performer like Taylor Swift
decides to hold a concert in the Philippines? And what do you
do if you, as an artist, happen to have a concert or a
performance on that very day that Taylor Swift is having hers in
our own country? How would you feel as an artist-performer?
Article II, Sections 17, 19, and 20 of the Philippine Constitution
prioritize arts and culture (among others), guarantee the
development of a self-reliant and independent national
economy effectively controlled by Filipinos, recognize the
indispensable role of the private sector, encourage private
enterprise, and provide incentives to needed investments.
Furthermore, Article 14, Sections 14 to 18 enshrine the policies
and support system guaranteed by the state in promoting and
developing local arts and culture.
The Performers Equity Program is a body of rules applied to
foreign live entertainers seeking to work in the Philippines and
aims to safeguard the interests of Filipino performers who are
being displaced in the influx of foreign acts in our country. This
government-private initiative was made to ensure that the
rights, privileges and welfare of Filipino performers are
protected in spite of the presence of highly patronized foreign
acts.

It started in 1987 upon the initiative of then Immigration


Commissioner Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who dialogued with
Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) and the
Asosasyon ng Musikong Pilipino (AMP) to engage artists nongovernment organizations in policing the entry of foreign
performers who do professional work in the Philippines. The
Bureau of Immigration 1 Commissioner, together with the
incumbent heads of OPM and AMP, signed a tri-partite
memorandum of agreement that was enforced in 1989.
Performers Equity Program does not only intend to raise funds
for the Filipino Performers welfare but also to institute rules that
will result in a better working environment for the Filipino
Performer in his/her own place of work.
Reciprocity of Equity Program
The Philippines is not the only country that levies dues to
foreign performers. The equity program implemented by OPM
and AMP works as an act of reciprocity applied to visiting
entertainers seeking to perform in the country.
For instance, Australias Media, Entertainment & Arts
Alliances 2 endorsement fees range from $ 110.00 to $ 550.00
per person depending on the nature and scope of work of the
foreign worker. The Alliance only endorses applications to
those who have complied with the criteria and strict guidelines,
after which they are endorsed to the Department of Immigration

1 The Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) is the government agency responsible
for the regulation of entry of foreigners to the Philippines. Under BID Law Instruction No.
56, foreign performers are required to comply with the Performers Equity Program prior
to grant of Special Working Permit (SWP).

A union for all performing artists and entertainment industry technicians or production
personnel in Australia that charges equity fees to all overseas performers and related
personnel including producers, directors, choreographers, actors, cinematographers etc.
(www.alliance.org.au)

& Citizenship in accordance to the provisions of the Migration


Regulations for foreign entertainers. The funds collected from
endorsements are utilized by the Equity Foundation (the
professional development arm of Alliance) in building and
promoting a harmonious working environment, in expanding
employment opportunities, and developing continuous
professional education for its members.
In the UK, there is EQUITY3, a membership-driven organization
that collects equity fees and represents performers such as
actors, singers, dancers, voice artists, choreographers, models,
theatre designers, directors and a wide array of performing
artists and creative people in the live and recorded
entertainment industry.
There are a number of equity-based organizations around the
world that levies taxes on foreign performers. This is done to
pave way for a better working environment for performers in
their respective countries.
In the Philippines, the BID, together with OPM and AMP,
institutionalized payment of equity fees by foreign act
producers mainly to protect the economic rights of Filipino
performers.
Coverage of the Equity Program
Who are supposed to pay equity fees and why do they need to
pay such amount when staging foreign acts in the Philippines?
Bart Guingona4 said that the equity fee levied to producers of
foreign shows is a support mechanism and not as a mere entry
fee of foreign artists. In addition, the equity program ought to
be explained well to the public to correct the notion that parties

3 United Kingdom Trade Union for professional performers and creative practitioners
(www.equity.org.uk).
4 Artistic Director of Actors Actors Guild

involved in the tri-partite agreement are simply preying on


foreign producers.
Ms. Celeste Legaspi- Gallardo5 also said that the equity fee
applied to producers of foreign shows is a non-confrontational
measure to regulate entries of foreign performers in the
country.
Currently, there are two parties who have entered into an
agreement with Bureau of Immigration in the implementation of
the equity program in the country. The Organisasyon ng
Pilipinong Mang-aawit6 collects equity fees for foreign singers
doing live musical acts and concerts while the Asosasyon ng
Musikong Pilipino7 collects in behalf of the displaced musicians,
instrumentalists and back-up vocalists.
Subject to specific exemptions, the following belong to the
category of performing artists in live entertainment covered by
the Performers Equity Program:
1. Solo and group singers (lead singers, vocalists in bands, and
choirs);
2. Theater actors, creative and technical directors, technicians
and crew
3. Solo and group dancers and choreographers;
4. Fashion models, stylists, designers, and creative and
technical directors, technicians and crew;
5. Magicians and circus artists, creative and technical directors,
technicians and crew; and
6. Any foreigner who performs, plays/acts in, interprets, and/or
designs live entertainment acts staged in the Philippines
Exemptions apply to foreign artists in the classical genre because
of their limited audience reach, as well as foreign performers of

5 Former

President of Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit


Organization of professional singers in the Philippines
7 Organization of professional musicians in the Philippines
6

any traditional forms of creative expression from the country of


origin to facilitate cultural exchange. Other exempted performers
include foreign singers who sing gratis for charity, provided that
they or their producers can show adequate proof that the
engaged foreign artists are not receiving payment as
professional fee and that one hundred percent (100%) of the
show/s proceeds shall accrue to charity; and foreign performers
whose parent/s is/are/was/were Filipino/s and those who are
currently married to a Filipino national.
Procedures & Fees on Acquiring Endorsements
Local sponsors or producers must inform all involved parties in
the program, through a letter of intention, the name/s of foreign
artists, dates and venues of all performances or work
engagement, and name/s of local performers, if any, at least
sixty (60) days before the intended dates of performances. The
letter must include the names of all solo, group and background
singers, instrumentalist and dancers who will perform in the
show.
The foreign performer/s or local sponsor or producer shall pay
corresponding equity fee. Foreign performers not covered by
exemptions shall be required to pay the amount of Five
Thousand Pesos (Php 5,000.00) per show for each foreign
singer/performer who will be performing in any venue in the
Philippines.
The rates however, shall be pegged at a maximum amount of
Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30, 000.00) regardless of the actual
number of shows performed per quarter of a year. This rate
shall apply to live performances on stage such as concerts,
musical theater, mall shows, etc. whether income generating or
not. This rate is inclusive of promotional activities such as TV
and radio guestings, etc.

The above rates shall be doubled for shows, performances or


promotional activities that fall on any of the dates covering the
peak season for local performers/artists (the entire months of
December, January and February).
Upon the receipt of letter and payment of the required Equity
Fee, OPM/AMP shall issue an Endorsement Letter to the local
producer waiving all objections to the foreign performer/s
professional engagement in the Philippines. The concert
producers will present the same endorsement letter to the Bureau
of Immigration and Deportation (BID) as a requirement for
application for Special Working Permit of the foreign
performer/s.
Foreign performers covered under the above-noted exemptions
still need to process their endorsement papers. They or their
producers are required to pay the processing fee of Five
Hundred Pesos Only (Php 500.00) per solo artist or per
established group of artists.
Status of OPM Equity Fee Collection
From 2010 to 2013, OPM collected a total of P8, 424,750.00 from
equity fee payments of foreign producers. The chart below
summarizes the annual collection of the organization:

Summary of OPM Performers'


Equity Collection
3,000,000.00
2,500,000.00
2,000,000.00
1,500,000.00
1,000,000.00
500,000.00
Equity Payments

2010

2011

2012

2013

2,273,500.00

2,058,500.00

2,384,000.00

1,708,750.00

The highest recorded equity collection was in 2012. This is


attributed to the volume of foreign acts and concerts that
performed in the country. Huge musical productions were not
charged equity fees due to issues surrounding the interpretation
of the MOA.
Back then, theatrical stage plays that were musical in nature
complied with the equity rule. When Cats was staged in 2010,
the producer-- Lunchbox Theatrical Productions paid a total of
P756, 000.00 as equity payment for the 28 foreign performers
who were part of the production that commenced in July to
August, which is the main contributory factor to a huge equity
collection in 2010.
Previous staging of foreign musical productions such as Miss
Saigon, Cinderella, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber among
other shows, have been permitted after due clearances were
issued by OPM.
A severely compromised existing memorandum of agreement
caused the decline of collection in 2011. Lunch Box Theatrical
Productions showcased musicals such as Mamma Mia, Phantom

of the Opera, and Wicked, bypassing the existing Equity


Program. They did not pay fees due to technicalities and gaps
they found in the memorandum of agreement.
In 2012, the Bureau of Immigration issued special working
permits for the cast and crew of the Phantom of the Opera
despite non-payment of equity fees because the Bureau found
no substantial basis or grounds to issue or revoke permits. In
the letter dated August 15, 2012 sent and signed by then
Commissioner Ricardo David, the tri-partite and existing
Memorandum of Agreement has not been renewed since 2007
or amended such that it would require theatre performers and
non-performing foreigners to contribute to the equity program
of OPM.
Since then, collection dwindled and foreign theatrical
productions performing in the country, in the absence of an
organized sector representing and collecting equity fees for and
in behalf of the theatre actors, do not pay corresponding equity
fees. To address the issue, The Theatre Actors Guild currently
headed by Ms. Kalila Aguilos is currently working on its
inclusion on the agreement on behalf of the theatre actors.

Fund Utilization of Equity Payments


The fund collected from equity fee payments provide assistance
to local performers whose livelihood and practice of profession
are displaced by the influx of foreign productions.
For example, collections serve as funds for welfare programs
that include performance workshop, continuous professional
education, health/insurance benefits, and other emergency
assistance that are extended to members of organizations
implementing the equity program.

From 2010-2013, OPM utilized collection for launching the


Philippine
Music
Registry
(www.philippinemusicregistry.com.ph), an online registry of
Filipino music artists and their published works. The project, to
which NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) is a
co-proponent, serves as an online and information source for
artists/performers, students, teachers, researchers, commercial
end-users, institutions and music enthusiasts. Up to date, OPM
has been diligently populating the site, which contains more
than 30,000 song-entries.
OPM also instituted a Legal Assistance Program for artists who
are in need of legal representation when disputes arise in their
respective work places. Artists can also make use of the
program for legal advice regarding their contracts and other
legally- binding documents pertaining to their nature of work as
singers.
In 2011, OPM embarked into events management thru the OPM
Fair Project-- a venue for artist-audience interaction that
promotes original Pinoy music. The project not only gives
performance venues, exposure and employment opportunities
to emerging Filipino talents but also gives them a chance for
interaction and mentorship with established singers. The OPM
Fair continues to be one of the many flagship projects of the
organization that caters to the needs of emerging Filipino
singers.
To raise public awareness and facilitate implementation of the
EO 255an executive order ensuring the broadcast of a
minimum of four (4) original Filipino musical composition every
hour of the program, the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mangaawit launched the MY OPM PLAYLIST Campaign, a travelling
exhibition launched in 2013, that constitutes OPM Playlists of
influential Filipino people who serve as aspirational- sectoral
leaders of their respective communities. The exhibition targets

to create a playlist that can be submitted to radio stations for


airplay as materials for their respective radio programs.
Annually, OPM conducts a performance workshopfree of
charge, for those aspiring singers who want to venture into the
singing profession.
The Singers Welfare Fund was also instituted by OPM to cater to
the hospitalization, medical assistance and other emergency
needs of ailing members who have long retired form the
profession. The fund also extends death, burial and other
insurance benefits to its members. Carlo Bulahan, Susan Fuentes
and Didith Reyes were among the many members who
benefited from the assistance program.

Moving Forward with the Equity Program


The Performers Equity Program was designed as a regulatory
measure to the influx of foreign performers who pose much
threat on the revenue streams and livelihood of the local artists.
The premise of the program is to create sustainability for the
creative industry to flourish in our own land.
Performers Equity Program should not hinder foreign
performers and producers from creating foreign productions in
the country. In fact, we should cultivate cultural exchange in the
age of globalization. Also, visiting artists promote tourism and
contribute to the local economy.
However, we have to keep in mind that, Filipino Artists and
Performers are exceptional talents who need to be given
preferential rights over any other foreign act. Support and
priority must be given to this sector to create a more conducive
working environment for artist that will lead to a vibrant and
sustainable music industry.

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