Liquor makers appeal for lifting of total ban on alcoholic beverages amid COVID-19 quarantine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 18) – Major liquor makers in the country appealed on Saturday for the government to lift the total ban on alcoholic beverages amid the COVID-19 quarantine.

In a letter addressed to Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, the Center for Alcohol Research and Development Foundation Inc. said the alcohol beverage industry now bears the negative impacts in their businesses and among their workers.

“We plead that you take into consideration the plight of our workers and the benefit that our industry provides to our nation’s economy,” said in the letter signed by the foundation’s president Gerardo Tan Tee of Absolut Distillers Inc.

The declining market demand in alcohol, aggravated by the imposition of sin taxes or higher excise taxes on these products, also worsened when some local government units imposed their own total liquor ban.

“We are pleading to let us thrive as a business, by allowing our products to exist in the market, with the same freedom of trade given to other goods and products,” the statement reads.

The cities of Manila, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, and Muntinlupa and La Union province are some of the LGUs in the country which imposed a total ban on alcoholic beverages during the ECQ.

READ: Manila City imposes liquor ban during Luzon quarantine

The liquor makers recognized the government’s concern on preventing alcohol intoxication amid the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, which seeks to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. But they maintained that people can drink in moderation.

"The state of intoxication however is caused only when alcohol consumption is considered abusive, that is, consumption of higher amount of alcohol than the normal. Alcohol consumption can be taken in moderation by responsible individuals of the society who are accustomed to drinking alcohol," the group said in the letter.

CARD suggested a partial ban on sale of alcoholic beverages, which imposes a particular time when alcoholic products can be sold.

“We are a legitimate business enterprise and banning the existence of our products in the market will only proliferate the existence of bootleggers who would take advantage of the prohibition by selling alcohol of inferior quality and standards, or of illegal drugs in place of our alcoholic beverages, further endangering the lives and health of the public,” the letter noted.

The alcohol industry has been slapped by hefty taxes in the past years, especially under President Rodrigo Duterte’s tax reform programs.

Last January, Duterte signed Republic Act 11467, which raises the excise taxes on alcohol products.

Under the law, distilled spirits like brandy, gin, vodka, tequila, and whiskey would be charged a specific tax of ₱42 per proof liter, on top of a 22 percent tax representing excise and value-added taxes. The duty will rise to ₱47 per liter next year, ₱52 per liter in 2022, ₱59 per liter by 2023, and ₱66 pesos by 2024.

For beer and other fermented liquor, the specific tax will rise to ₱35 per liter this 2020, and will add ₱2 per liter each succeeding year until 2024.

By January 1, 2025, the specific tax for these drinks will increase by 6 percent per year. Meanwhile, the tax on wines will rise to ₱50 per liter effective this year, and would add 6 percent per year, starting 2021.