A BILL that seeks to ban young people under 21 from drinking alcoholic drinks has been filed at the House of Representatives.

Under House Bill 1753 filed by Davao City Rep. Paolo Z. Duterte and Benguet Rep. Eric G. Yap, the ban will also cover people with disabilities or a mental illness.

“The youth have a vital role in nation-building and it’s the duty of the state to promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being,” Mr. Duterte said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The state shall undertake efforts to eliminate alcohol abuse and reduce underage drinking by prohibiting unqualified individuals’ access to alcohol,” he added.

The proposed Anti-Underage Drinking Act will penalize people or companies that sell alcohol to unqualified people. Violators will be fined P50,000, jailed for at most three months, or both. A company’s business license could also get revoked.

Under the bill, unqualified people refer to those under 21 years old, or 21 years old but can’t fully take care of or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability.

The legal drinking age in the Philippines is 18, but children can easily buy alcoholic drinks in stores.

More than half of Filipinos aged 20 to 59 drink alcoholic drinks excessively, according to the Food Nutrition and Research Institute’s health survey. It also said 15% of Filipinos aged 10 to 19 use alcohol, and 37% of them are underage drinkers.

Minors who violate the proposed law must attend, together with their guardian, two straight counselling sessions conducted by the local village council. The Social Welfare department will deal with them if they fail to do so.

The most senior officers of a corporate violator will be held liable. Public officials tasked to enforce the measure who block the enforcement of the law will be punished with suspension and a jail term of up to six months.

Alcohol use kills 2.5 million people yearly, including 320,000 peopled aged 15 to 29, Mr. Duterte said, citing data from the World Health Organization. “It is the third leading risk factor for poor health globally, and responsible for almost 4% of all deaths in the world, according to 2004 estimates.”

A 2021 study by Movendi International, a global social organization promoting alcohol prevention, found that one of three Filipinos consumed at least six alcoholic beverages in one sitting.

In the Philippines, household spending on alcoholic beverages and tobacco rose fourfold to P226.5 billion in 2020, according to Statista. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan