Baguio revives Christmas bonfire policy

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BAGUIO CITY – The summer capital is enforcing a regulation that requires residents and tourists to get the permission of the local fire department before setting up bonfires for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The bonfire provision of Republic Act No. 9514 (Fire Code of the Philippines of 2008), which applies a policy that dates back to 1977, is being revived after groups opposed to the use of firecrackers began promoting bonfires as an alternative mode of revelry.

Baguio Fire Marshal Joe Fernan Bangyod said the national fire code stipulates that nobody could put up bonfires without the supervision of the Bureau of Fire Protection.

He said enforcing the national bonfire regulation was not meant to stifle merrymaking. “We received complaints from households [in previous years] because they [had been] distracted by too much smoke that came from their neighbors’ bonfires… There are those who use bonfires so they can set light to firecrackers,” he said.

He said firemen have also been instructed to inspect boarding and transient houses because of reports that these places sometimes stock firecrackers.

“Boarders store the firecrackers in their rooms one month before [the Christmas season] because they intend to sell them,” he said.

The Department of Health here said its campaign against firecrackers helped reduce firecracker victims in 2011, recording 52 injuries compared to 96 in 2010.

In Bocaue, Bulacan, the center of firecracker manufacturing, businessmen urged the government to intensify the drive against smuggled fireworks.

Celso Cruz, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Pyrotechnics Manufacturers and Dealers Association Inc. (PPMDAI), said the police have not been inspecting fireworks factories to determine whether their stocks are domestic firecrackers or are smuggled imports.

Vimie Erese, PPMDAI president, said smuggled Chinese fireworks have been dominating retail stores and small shops annually for the last 10 years.

Republic Act No. 7183, the law regulating the production, sale and distribution of fireworks, prohibits the sale of imported products to protect the local manufacturers.

In a recent conference in Guiguinto town, Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, chief of the Philippine National Police firearms and explosives office, confirmed that smuggled firecrackers are abound and relabeled as Bulacan products, based on an exchange of information his office undertakes with the Bureau of Customs. Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon

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