Many locked down Filipinos want access to alcoholic beverages. Why were they banned in the first place?

April 20, 2020 - 6:28 PM
Corona beer
Corona beers in a bucket. (Pexels/Tembela Bohle)

Concerns on the liquor ban surfaced anew when alcoholic beverage makers appealed to the government to lift the prohibition amid the enhanced community quarantine as they noted the setbacks in the industry.

In a letter addressed to Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, the Center for Alcohol Research and Development (CARD) Foundation Inc. said it wanted the government to lift the ban or ease its restrictions wherein Filipinos can only buy liquor during certain hours.

It added that the foundation understands the purpose of the directive. It said that prolonging the ban would already be detrimental to its workers and companies dependent on the liquor industry.

“We plead that you take into consideration the plight of our workers and the benefit that our industry provides to our nation’s economy,” CARD said in a letter.

Some of its member companies include Absolut Distillers, Emperador Distillers and Ginebra San Miguel.

“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,” CARD added.

The foundation said that the total liquor ban “effectively drives out the industry from the market and unduly forfeits the capital” companies have invested in the products.

It acknowledged that “responsible individuals of the society who are accustomed to drinking alcohol” can take liquor in moderation.

CARD also said that by allowing legitimate liquor sellers to operate, there is a lesser chance of people buying from “bootleggers” who sell liquor of inferior quality that may endanger the public’s health.

Why LGUs are implementing liquor ban

The local government units that have imposed a liquor ban during the enhanced community quarantine include the cities of Quezon City, Manila, Mandaluyong, Muntinlupa and the province of La Union, Cebu City and Davao region, among others.

Liquor bottles in a shelf
An assortment of liquor bottles on a shelf. (Unsplash/chuttersnap)

Some of the reasons for imposing a liquor ban include avoiding public gatherings and preventing people from violating curfew hours in place to control public movement and avoid further spread of COVID-19.

To ban or not to ban? 

Some Filipinos have been expressing their sentiments against the liquor ban ever since different LGUs have imposed it over certain areas.

When reports of two Filipinos dying from a homemade alcohol mix surfaced online, some claimed that it could be an effect of “alcohol withdrawal” following the directive.

Last April 13, two residents of Tondo, Manila succumbed to death after drinking an alcohol mix that consisted of coffee, vinegar, soda and paint thinner.

A family of one of the victims said that they were known for being alcohol dependents.

“This happens when you impose a liquor ban with no intention of treating people with alcohol dependence. Time and again, we go back to WHO’s definition of health: It is a state of COMPLETE physical, MENTAL and SOCIAL well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” a Twitter user said.

Alcohol dependence is defined by the health department as a “chronic mental disorder marked by a craving for alcohol.”

Others, however, thought that liquor ban must be in place while the home quarantine is in effect since alcohol intoxication may fuel instances of domestic abuse and violence.

“To my dearest friends who keep on insisting na sana i-lift up ang liquor ban while on ECQ; did you know that it contributes to the domestic violence that even without ECQ, exists?” a Twitter user said.

“When someone is under the influence of alcohol, he or she is much more likely to lose control of his or her behavior and inhibitions. This can make individuals who are prone to violence much more likely to act on violent thoughts or urges,” a drug and alcohol addiction treatment program said.

What WHO says on alcohol intake during COVID-19 pandemic

Last week, the World Health Organization suggested that governments should restrict people’s access to alcohol because it “can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviors, mental health issues and violence.”

It added that alcohol consumption “is associated with a range of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and mental health disorders, which can make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19.”

WHO said that alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes, which is not necessary amid a global health crisis.