Authorities on lookout for ‘Goodbye COVID’
BOCAUE, BULACAN—The pandemic has made it a year like no other, and New Year revelers looking for a powerful firecracker to bid 2020 goodbye won’t be disappointed.
In Bocaue, the so-called firecracker capital of the Philippines, they may find exactly what they want: a blaster packed with more than 2 grams of explosive ingredients—and therefore illegal. Its manufacturers call it “Goodbye COVID.”
It may cost buyers an arm and a leg—literally and figuratively—as it sells from P600 to P1,000 apiece.
Police and local authorities have intensified the crackdown on banned firecrackers to prevent injuries and deaths during the New Year merrymaking.
On Sunday, policemen arrested a seller of illegal firecrackers during an entrapment operation in this town.
Rhendel Siongco, 20, was caught selling “Goodbye Philippines,” “Plapla,” “Kabasi” and “Atomic” that were manufactured from an unlicensed factory at Sitio Bihunan in Barangay Binang II.
These firecrackers are among the 26 types categorized as “very hazardous” by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, according to Police Col. Lawrence Cajipe, Bulacan police director.
As they reeled from the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business, manufacturers are pondering their future.
President Duterte had warned of a firecracker ban across the country by December next year for public health and safety reasons. Once enacted, the policy would kill the local firecracker and fireworks industry, particularly that of Bocaue’s.
The President had said he was aware of the concerns of manufacturers who had appealed to him to reconsider his decision as it would put people out of their jobs.
“I really understand you. I might even sympathize with you. Loss of earnings and you are driven out of business. But the problem is the higher duty of government to protect public interest, public health,” he said.
Mayors of Metro Manila have also agreed to ban firecrackers in the metropolis to reduce the risks of injuries and prevent mass gatherings.
But Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando said all other fireworks and pyrotechnic devices that were not covered by the ban could still be bought and manufactured in the province.
In a recent inspection of stores selling fireworks here, Fernando ordered the Bulacan police to ensure that these shops complied with all safety measures.
He conceded that some manufacturers still tried to sell illegal firecrackers with unusual branding, including the “Goodbye COVID.’’
According to him, they were supporting the government’s drive to minimize fireworks-related injuries but were also trying to help thousands of people keep their jobs especially in this town.
Joven Ong, Philippine Fireworks Association president, said the group believed that the ban would “only serve to reward the acts of those who operate illegally to the detriment of the whole industry.”
“Instead of a ban, the government should try to help us instead by catching these illegal manufacturers and smugglers,” Ong said.
On Tuesday, Mandaluyong City announced a total ban on the manufacture, distribution, sale and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices to ensure public safety and health.
Mayor Carmelita Abalos signed Executive Order No. 39 series of 2020, which prohibits the sale and use of any kind of firecrackers during the revelry on Thursday and Friday.
Similar local ordinances and executive orders have been passed in the cities of Marikina, Valenzuela, Parañaque, Muntinlupa, Quezon City, Navotas and San Juan.
Instead of fireworks displays, health officials have recommended safer alternatives, such as virtual celebrations or small gatherings with family members and the use of alternative “merrymaking noise tools.” —With a report from Meg Adonis
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