Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, eCommerce has been gaining weight in a traditionally off-premise-weighted drinks market in the Philippines. Globally, more people are growing accustomed to buying alcohol online, with forecasts projecting that online alcohol sales will grow by over 74% in 20 key markets by next year.
In response to the rising challenge of preventing alcohol sales to minors and intoxicated individuals, the world’s leading alcohol producers and major eCommerce platforms signed a joint initiative by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) in 2020 to commit to implementing global standards for online alcohol sales and delivery. These include ensuring safeguards are in place to prevent preventing minors and harmful drinkers from buying alcohol online.
International wine and spirits producers in the Alcoholic Beverages Alliance of the Philippines (ABAPI), together with local eCommerce platforms in the Philippines followed suit as well by signing a local Pledge in 2021, in light of the COVID-19 situation.
This year, alcohol producers and eCommerce platforms in the country reinforced their commitment to prevent alcohol from ending up in the hands of underaged drinkers. In a seminar co-organized by the Asia Pacific International Spirits & Wines Alliance (APISWA) and ABAPI on May 25, 2023, stakeholders from the private sector and government agencies shared best practices on how they can work together to promote responsible online alcohol sales and delivery, further a supportive legal framework around eCommerce sales, and additionally, tackle challenges such as the proliferation of illicit alcohol on online platforms.
In a panel discussion on the current alcohol eCommerce landscape and the development of a responsible sales environment, representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) provided perspectives contributing to a holistic view on tackling both underage drinking and counterfeit alcohol sold online. DTI Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Pacheco presented the outlook of the Department towards fostering a responsible eCommerce environment and consumer protection in the digital economy.
Beyond the commitment by alcohol producers, the seminar shined light on the role eCommerce platforms can play in the fight to prevent minors from accessing alcohol. Representing the IPOPHL at the eCommerce pledge launch, Director General Rowel Barba and DTI Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Pacheco, as witness-signatories to the industry pledge.
At the event, IPOPHL invited ABAPI to sign the IPOPHL Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between IP owners, brand owners and eCommerce players to strengthen the fight against the sale of counterfeit goods over the internet. The IPOPHL also established the local guidelines among the online marketplaces to intensify the fight against the sale of counterfeit goods on the internet.
”If illicit trade in alcohol is left unchecked and unregulated by governments, the challenge and risk to consumer health and safety will continue to grow in tandem with trends of increased alcohol consumption in markets.
Unrecorded alcohol is an effect of the growing problem of illicit alcohol trade around Southeast Asia. It refers to alcoholic products not accounted for in a country’s official sales. This is because those products are either produced, distributed, or sold outside government-licensed channels. Overall alcohol consumption in ASEAN is expected to grow by 16-18% by 2025.
If illicit trade in alcohol is left unchecked and unregulated by governments, the challenge and risk to consumer health and safety will continue to grow in tandem with trends of increased alcohol consumption in markets.
In a statement, APISWA Chairman Sanjit Randhawa elaborated on the need for concerted efforts across sectors to combat harmful consumption of alcohol and curb the illicit alcohol trade, highlighting the renewed call on industry players to act now.
“Producers and retailers of the world’s leading alcohol brands across the world have committed to work in solidarity to protect minors from online alcohol sales and deliveries. The re-launch of our pledge originally signed in 2020 is our way of showing the world that the Philippines continues to be in step towards the goal of creating a responsible e-retailing environment for alcohol,” said Randhawa.
“Improper sale and distribution of alcohol brings a wide range of negative impacts. It poses significant health risks and undermines the rule of law. To improve how alcoholic products are sold and enjoyed across the country, we look forward to working with the government and other relevant stakeholders to eliminate the sale of alcoholic products to minors and to combat the harmful use of alcohol in all its forms.”
Complementing the statement, ABAPI President Rajesh Joshi stressed the need for the participation of not just brand owners, but of eCommerce distributors in the responsible selling of alcohol.
“The responsible distribution of alcohol in the Philippines is a shared responsibility, not just between the government and producers but also with the distribution channels that consumers access more frequently now more than ever. It is important that all the stakeholders involved actively participate to protect minors from purchasing alcohol and continuously work together to create safeguards for consumers in the country.”
The launch of the eCommerce pledge and IPOPHL MoU signing ceremony took place in the sidelines of the recent APISWA Mission to the Philippines, alongside the delegation organised by the EU-ASEAN Business Council, where the industry was able to meet with the following government Ministries and were able to raise questions at these meetings on behalf of the Wines & Spirits sector:
- Dept. Trade and Industry (DTI) Sec. Alfredo “Fred” Pascual
- Chief of Staff – Pia Cayetano
- House Speaker/Congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez
- Department of Transportation (DOTr) Sec. Jaime J. Bautista
- National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) – Sec. Balisacan
- Dept. of Finance (DOF) Usec. Mark Dennis Joven
- Responsible selling of alcoholic beverages online pushed
- Pledge tightens control of online sale of alcoholic drinks to minors
- Retailers, e-commerce apps secure booze sale
- Dangers of online sale of illicit alcohol flagged
- Responsible e-commerce pushed