Zero casualty or firecracker ban?
CITY OF MALOLOS—Local governments must work hard to reduce or eliminate firecracker injuries and fatalities on and after Jan. 1, New Year’s Day, according to a Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) official.
President Duterte wants to see a drop in the number of injuries to 400 from the 900 recorded in January 2016, Rico Judge Janvier Echiverri, DILG assistant secretary for external and legislative affairs, told officials of the Bulacan pyrotechnic board (PRB) on Dec. 21.
“If not, there will really be a total ban next year,” he said. “The President is very clear: He wants to implement [in the whole country] a firecracker ban [he first enforced as Davao City mayor]. He is, at the same time, not insensitive [to the plight of firecracker makers and users]. But there is a need to protect the public.”
He added: “The President saw too many defects in the way firecrackers are produced … The Bureau of Fire Protection wants a total ban on firecrackers. The Philippine National Police wants stricter regulations. This indicates that agencies are leaning toward a total ban so we must strive for zero casualty.”
In Western Visayas, Ann Sta. Lucia, regional coordinator of the DOH’s Violence and Injury Prevention Program, said the DOH is keeping track of firecracker injury cases and, like a shame campaign, would announce areas with the most firecracker injuries and the local governments governing these.
Six merrymakers in Western Visayas were wounded in the eye while two suffered burns in their hands as lighting up firecrackers continued to be the manner by which many in the region celebrated the days leading to Christmas.
The regional DOH said the victims were all males with ages ranging from six to 22.
The agency has been proposing the lighting of firecrackers in common areas and discouraging the use of firecrackers in residential areas to reduce, if not eliminate, blast injuries or deaths.
In Bulacan province, Leah Alapide, a manufacturer and dealer of fireworks in Bocaue town, said injuries take place because of the misuse of firecrackers, and not because of the quality of fireworks sold in the market. Alapide was a former president of the Philippine Pyrotechnic Manufacturers and Dealers Association (PPMDAI).
“Bulacan is the pyrotechnic capital of the country. [Fireworks] are part of tradition. These are legal in many countries, so let us show everybody that we are doing something here to address the injuries [and] the explosions,” said Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado, PRB chair.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III suspended 110 firecracker factories and stores in November following two firecracker-related accidents that killed five people, two of them children.
At present, 94 manufacturers and traders have passed the safety review and have been cleared to resume operations.
“It is not yet too late. Let us [mount an] education campaign and we hope the Department of Health can also help us … It is Bulacan’s priority to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public,” Alvarado said.
He also proposed to set up a quality control system that would put the Bulacan seal of excellence on fireworks products that pass standards, apart from the product standard mark issued by the Department of Trade and Industry.
Firecracker manufacturers said smuggled products have entered the market and have been repacked as made in Bulacan, to take advantage of the low supply. Many manufacturers are still rushing orders which were delayed by the Nov. 24 suspension imposed by Bello.
Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil, chair of the technical working group of the House committee on public order and safety, informed the board of the proposed amendments to Republic Act No. 7183 (the law regulating the manufacture and sale of fireworks) which are being discussed in Congress.
The amendments involve improvements to the quality standards covering the chemical composition of firecracker and pyrotechnic products. For example, fireworks makers are still allowed to use potassium chlorate, which has been discontinued by manufacturers in other countries, said Celso Cruz, PPMDAI president-emeritus. —WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR BURGOS JR.
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