Firecracker manufacturers in Iloilo city also hurting from production and trade ban
ILOILO CITY—For the past 20 years, Juben Callado would eagerly wait for December.
A manufacturer and seller of firecrackers and pyrotechnic products, Callado expected his income to peak during the month, especially before New Year. But this holiday season, the future appeared bleak.
Callado, 45, is among the hundreds of residents of Arevalo District here who are bearing the brunt of a work stoppage order of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) on businesses engaged in the manufacture and sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnic products.
In his order on Nov. 24, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III directed the agency’s regional offices to assess the businesses’ compliance with occupational safety and health standards and labor laws and rules following fatal accidents in fireworks establishments in Bulacan province.
Two persons were killed while 24 others were injured in an explosion at a row of firecracker shops in Bocaue town, Bulacan on Oct. 12. Three more died and six others were wounded in another explosion at a firecracker shop on Nov. 23 in Sta. Maria town, also in Bulacan.
The Dole and Bureau of Fire Protection have barred the manufacturing, selling and display of firecrackers and pyrotechnics following the order.
The order would only be lifted if the establishments were compliant with standards set by Dole, Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), according to Salome Siaton, Dole officer in charge in Western Visayas.
Among the requirements of the BFP is that work and selling areas should have a fire hydrant, which many manufacturers said they cannot afford.
Along Jocson Street in Barangay San Jose, Arevalo District, no firecracker stall had been put up nor were there displays in stores.
“We will be arrested and our materials confiscated if we [put up stalls and display our products],” said Callado.
Arevalo District is known for two main products: flowers and firecrackers.
Yearlong, buyers from all over Panay Island come to Arevalo to order firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials for festivals, weddings, birthdays, baptisms and other events.
The industry has provided income for hundreds of mostly poor families and those with no regular employment. They earn from P20,000 to P50,000 throughout the year.
“Many of us have sent our children to school by selling firecrackers,” said Suzy Tugado, 53, who inherited the business from her father.
Many of those without regular jobs work part-time in November and December when orders peak.
Callado and Tugado have appealed to the government to allow them to sell their stocks and those they were about to manufacture.
“We have already incurred loans for our capital and we have bought, and even mixed, the ingredients. We cannot just return them,” Callado said.
He said on Dec. 10, he would pay P4,800 for a P50,000 bank loan which he acquired as capital for his business.
“I don’t know where to find the money. I’m already having a hard time to meet our expenses for food and other necessities,” he told the Inquirer.
Many customers have also given advance payments for bulk orders.
“What will we tell them? And we have also used the payment to buy materials and ingredients,” Callado said.
He said they have followed safety regulations and rules, including ensuring adequate supply of water and sand in stalls and banning smoking among customers. Manufacturers have also moved their work places outside their houses to huts near a fishpond, far from residential areas.
“Government agencies can monitor us if they want. But please, allow us to sell our products because the work stoppage order was issued abruptly,” Callado said.
He said changes and plans can be implemented next year.
“We know this business can be dangerous and we would gladly give it up if we will be provided with a decent, alternative livelihood. But for now, this is where we get money to buy food and other expenses,” Callado said.
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