Fireworks makers ready to cheer storm-hit areas

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SCENES like this, of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” survivors burning firewood from debris to light the darkness, have become familiar in Tacloban City. DENNIS JAY SANTOS/INQUIRER MINDANAO

SAN RAFAEL, Bulacan—Fireworks manufacturers in Bulacan province are ready to light up the skies of communities in the Visayas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” this Christmas and New Year, but only if they were asked to.

Joven Ong, head of the Philippine Fireworks Association, said the industry believed these light shows could cheer up survivors, but manufacturers were cautious about being painted as callous.

He said survivors needed food, shelter and jobs more than a night’s display of pomp and color.

Ong’s Dragon Fireworks Inc. won in September the Pyronale 2013 World Fireworks Competition, an annual contest for fireworks manufacturers in Berlin. Dragon’s 15-minute light show, accompanied by Filipino folk tunes, was declared the winner.

“We may be criticized for doing something wrong when all we want is to offer help. You know, when one tries to express support and it is misinterpreted, [one can] end up being demonized,” Ong said.

He said the fireworks industry also needed local officials to make the first move because communities would need to clear areas for the show, which could be a tough task in places where populated areas had been turned into huge piles of debris.

Ong said the industry had sent food and aid to the ravaged Visayan provinces.

Celso Cruz, president emeritus of Philippine Pyrotechnic Manufacturers and Dealers Association Inc., said the industry expected to suffer, too, from the effects of Yolanda, which damaged supplies and slowed sales down.

There are manufacturers of firecrackers and pyrotechnic products in Iloilo, Negros islands and Cebu that were also hit by Yolanda.

For the last few years, the country’s fireworks trade has been more concerned about the impact of a government-sponsored campaign against fireworks that has influenced many local governments.

In Baguio City, Mayor Mauricio Domogan said he would ban the sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnic products.

Domogan has turned down an appeal by local firecracker traders, whose group is called Paputok, Luces at Iba Pa (Fireworks, Sparklers and Other products).

The mayor said he stood firm on the ban, which he first imposed in 2012 to ensure an accident- and injury-free celebration of New Year in the city. Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon, with a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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