Representatives Eric Yap (Benguet) and Paolo Duterte (Davao City) have filed a bill seeking to raise the legal minimum age from 18 to 21 years.
A more controversial aspect of the bill is seeking to prohibit people with disabilities from buying alcohol.
House Bill No. 1753 was filed on July 11, 2022 seeking to ban “unqualified individuals” from purchasing alcohol products and to prohibit others from buying alcohol products for them.
These “unqualified individuals” are noted as those below the age of 21 years and those who are above 21 “but are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition.”
Furthermore, the Bill prohibits presenting fake identification to appear as 21 years and also prohibits establishments from allowing consumption or posession of alcohol products by those below 21 years.
As per the bill, if someone in the “unqualified individuals” category violates the law,
- On the first offense, they would be sent for counseling before the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children.
- On the second offense, they will have to attend two consecutive counseling sessions with the BCPC with their parents or guardians.
- Failure to comply would mean the case would be sent to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
- The third and next offenses will be handed over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for counseling and any necessary action on the matter.
Anyone who is not in the “unqualified individuals” category who violates the law, for example by buying alcohol products for someone below 21 years of age would face a P50,000 fine or jail time of up to three months. Subsequent offences would be dealt with through fines and jail time in addition to the revocation of their business license.
Public officers who fail to implement the law would face jail time of at least one month to six months and a temporary suspension from public service.
Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Philippines president Arpee Lazaro has spoken out against adding those with disabilities to the list of “unqualified individuals”. He agrees that while reducing alcohol use is a positive measure, people with disabilities should be given the freedom to choose it for themselves as other non-disabled people.
The need to raise minimum legal age for alcohol use
As the World Health Organization (WHO) reports over half (52.1%) of young Filipino boys and almost one-fifth (18.9%) of young Filipino girls between 15 to 19 years who use alcohol binge on the substance.
Since the human brain develops until the age of 25. Alcohol consumption poses a developmental risk to children and youth, concerning the development of cognitive and intellectual capacities.
- Compared to those who take up alcohol use after the age of 21 young people who begin consuming alcohol before age 15 are,
- 12 times more likely to suffer unintentional injuries,
- 7 times more likely to be in a motor vehicle crash, and
- 10 times more likely to have been in a physical fight, due to alcohol, according to U.S. data.
- Kids who began consuming alcohol before the age of 15 were 5.6 times more likely to report having alcohol use disorder in the past year as adults.
- Teens hospitalized for alcohol-related injuries are more likely to die within 10 years.
- The younger children and adolescents are when they start consuming alcohol, the more likely they will engage in behaviors that harm themselves and others. For example, frequent binge alcohol users are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including using other drugs, having sex with six or more partners, and performing poorly in school.
As the WHO data show already a significant proportion of 15 to 19-year-olds who have started consuming alcohol in the Philippines is doing so in hazardous ways, thus endangering their health. This shows the need for the country to raise the minimum legal age to 21 years.
Scientific evidence has proven that increasing the minimum legal age limit for alcohol use significantly decreases alcohol-related injuries and deaths. The minimum legal age of 21 years led to reduced rates of alcohol use even after youth turned 21 years. Therefore, increasing the minimum legal age to 21 years can protect children and young people in the Philippines from alcohol harm now and in the long run.