Oops! Firecracker injuries on the rise
The government may have spoken too soon when it immediately bragged over the weekend that firecracker injuries this year were the lowest in a decade.
As of Monday, injuries have steadily climbed to 524 cases from an official count of just 350 on New Year’s Eve, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
The DOH spokesperson, Dr. Eric Tayag, said in his Twitter account that the latest figure on the number of firecracker injuries was still 40 percent lower than the five-year (2011-2015) average; and 40 percent lower compared with the same period last year.
The DOH started counting injuries on Dec. 21 and the count will end on Jan. 5.
Inquirer research showed 384 firecracker-related injuries from Dec. 21, 2015, to Jan. 1, 2016, representing a decrease of just 8.8 percent compared with the same period last year.
In contrast, the government had claimed a 60-percent drop in cases in celebrations this year—the lowest in a decade— with Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial attributing the decline to the public’s fear of President Duterte, who had earlier vowed to harshly punish revelers and ultimately ban the multimillion-peso firecracker industry.
The Aksyon Paputok Injury Reduction 2016 report of the DOH National Epidemiology Center showed that most of the victims were in Manila, followed by Quezon City, Marikina, Navotas, Las Piñas, Pasig and Mandaluyong.
The report noted that majority, or 53 percent, of the injuries were caused by illegal fireworks. One hundred seventy-seven, or 34 percent, of the injuries were caused by piccolo, an illegal firecracker.
On Monday, Ubial maintained that Emilyn Villanueva, the 15-year-old girl from Malabon City now at the intensive care unit of Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, suffered injuries from a stray bullet and not from deliberate shooting as claimed by the police.
“If it’s a shooting incident, the trajectory of the bullet that hit the victim would not be like that. We still categorize it as stray bullet from indiscriminate firing because the bullet hit the child on the head at the trajectory of a stray bullet, vertical,” Ubial told the Inquirer.
“In terms of the health indicator, the CT scan that we have, the trajectory of the bullet was really from up going downward,” she stressed, contradicting a police report that classified the shooting as intentional.
The Philippine National Police said it recorded 23 incidents of indiscriminate firing during the holidays, with at least six of the 19 suspects policemen and a military man.
Among those the PNP identified were PO1 Daniel Castillo of Raxabago Police Station in Manila, PO1 Ronel Pantig, assigned to the Pasig City Police Station, and Cpl. Lovelyson Cutas, a member of the Philippine Marines.
Castillo is now detained at the Manila Police District, Cutas is detained at the Taguig City Police Station while Pantig is still at large.
In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said that President Duterte deferred the signing of an executive order imposing a total ban on firecrackers, as he considered its effects on manufacturers and their employees.
“The President weighs, considers the welfare that would be for the greater good of all,” Andanar said in a statement.
“Although we are very much aware that the President is a strong advocate of the total firecracker ban, there are industries and laborers also that would be affected by this move,” he said.
Firecracker injuries in Central Luzon rose to 130 as of Monday, mostly from Bulacan, Pampanga and Zambales provinces.
The number, however, still represented a 64 percent drop, compared with the same period in 2015 and the first days of 2016, according to the DOH regional epidemiology and surveillance unit.
The Bulacan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said 58 people were hurt in the New Year revelry in the province, mostly by piccolo.
Firecracker sales still up
In Bocaue town, firecracker sellers reported brisk business in the run-up to New Year’s Eve.
Most firecracker dealers resumed operations in mid-December after the government lifted a stop order issued last October following two fireworks accidents that killed five people.
Herminia Camlian, 46, owner of Minia’s Fireworks in Barangay Binang, said stores were swamped with last-minute orders and could not keep up with demand. –With reports from Marlon Ramos, Julliane Love de Jesus, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Tonette Orejas