New firecracker campaign takes less combative tonePhilippine Daily Inquirer
BOCAUE, Bulacan—Health Secretary Enrique Ona has been frequenting the capital of the fireworks industry this month, dropping by to visit a firecracker factory on Dec. 7, and returning on Dec. 16 to light the province’s giant Christmas tree in Malolos City.
He even stayed to watch the city’s fireworks display.
Health officials said Ona has been active in Bulacan because he wants to popularize a toned-down version of the Department of Health’s yearly antifireworks campaign.
They said the new campaign is not hostile to manufacturers of firecrackers and pyrotechnics, unlike the hard line “Iwas Paputok” drive that discouraged purchase of firecrackers by displaying graphic images of firecracker victims.
In a text message to the Inquirer last week, Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said: “Our scare tactics in the past have significantly reduced the number of injuries to just over 1,000.”
Tayag said the Department of Health (DOH) decided to improve the antifirecracker campaign by focusing on two goals: reduce demand for firecrackers by promoting New Year revelries that use alternative noisemakers and reduce children’s access to firecrackers.
Children are the most vulnerable to firecracker accidents, he said.
On Dec. 7, Ona visited a firecracker factory in Barangay Duhat and a fireworks trading zone in Barangay Turo, armed with posters of the new “Aksiyon Paputok Injury Reduction (Apir)” program that replaced the hard line “Iwas Paputok” drive.
Ona told traders DOH has decided to use Apir as its new campaign because it is less hostile to manufacturers.
The Apir acronym emulates the 1990s street slang, “appear,” which refers to the “high five,” a hand gesture expressing approval. Elementary school students welcomed Ona with placards. One said: “We want our fingers to be complete.”
Mayor Eduardo Villanueva Jr. said the DOH heeded an appeal by the town government and by the Philippine Pyrotechnics Manufacturers and Dealers Inc. (PPMDAI) not to portray the firecracker industry as evil.
Vimie Erise, PPMDAI head, said previous antifirecracker drives demonized the industry despite the fact that it was operating legally.
“Instead, government should help it thrive and must instead advocate safer methods for use of firecrackers,” Villanueva said.
When Apir was promoted in Baguio City on Dec. 7, Cordillera health officials distributed a DOH circular that encouraged local governments to plan community-led fireworks displays to reduce the risk of injuries.
Dr. Rowena Galpo, DOH Cordillera assistant director, said passing an ordinance that imposes a total ban on firecrackers and pyrotechnics is cumbersome because it translates to loss of livelihood for manufacturers and traders. Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon, with a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon