MANILA – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III wants the liquor ban to remain in place while a community quarantine remains in effect around the country, but said options are now being looked into for tobacco products.

“I am not in favor (of lifting the liquor ban),” he told journalists in a Viber message Monday.

The liquor ban was ordered after Luzon was placed under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 16 up to April 12, and then extended until April 30, 2020.

Various local and provincial governments in the Visayas and Mindanao are also implementing various levels of quarantine to prevent further rise of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.

Dominguez, however, said options for the sale of tobacco products during the ECQ are being studied.

“That’s under consideration because the absence of cigarettes encourages illicit trade,” he said.

The Finance chief said policies on the sale of sin products depend on the ongoing studies on the current situation.

“But let me reiterate — all of the above depends on the result of the ongoing evaluation of the tradeoffs involved in the decision of maintaining the current partial lockdown or tightening it or loosening it further,” he said.

He added the deadline for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (AITF-EID) to decide on what will be done after April 30 is on that day itself.

In a letter to Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez dated April 16, the Center for Alcohol Research and Development Foundation Inc. called on the lifting of the liquor ban because this “effectively drives out the industry from the markets, and unduly forfeits the capital which had already been invested” and used for the production of the products.

It added tax hikes for alcoholic products in recent years have been proven to be “highly effective” in limiting people’s consumption of alcoholic products as shown by the drop in sales volumes and that “the state of intoxication, however, is caused only when alcohol consumption is considered abusive.”

Tobacco manufacturers have called on the government to allow the production of excisable products like tobacco and alcohol products so the government can collect taxes from these and have revenues to fund its fight against coronavirus disease (Covid-19). (PNA)

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