Fireworks injuries rise despite warnings
Cases of firecracker injuries rose to 61 on Thursday, three days before Filipinos welcome 2018 with the traditional merrymaking using fireworks.
The Department of Health (DOH) reported the latest injuries as Malacañang advised the public to avoid illegal firecrackers — bull-roarers that go off like grenades — and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) warned manufacturers and sellers of such bangers that they face fines or imprisonment if they are caught breaking the ban on dangerous fireworks.
The DOH reported 19 new cases of firecracker injuries, including a 13-year-old boy from Sipalay City in Negros Occidental province who lost a finger when he played with an illegal cracker called bazooka.
According to a report released by the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau, the 19 new cases brought to 61 the number of firecracker injuries that had been documented in 50 sentinel sites across the country since Dec. 21, the start of the monitoring period for such injuries.
The DOH said the figure was 44 percent, or 47 cases, lower than the same period in 2016.
Many of the cases were reported in Metropolitan Manila. Of the 32 cases in the metropolis, 20 were recorded in Manila.
The DOH said most of the injured were males (58 cases) whose ages ranged from 11 months to 62 years old.
“Piccolo,” a small, candy-looking firecracker that the government has banned, is responsible for most of the injuries, the DOH said.
Except for four cases that required amputation, most of the cases were blast wounds and four were eye injuries, it said.
No deaths had been reported yet, the agency said. “There was no reported case of firework ingestion and stray-bullet injury,” it added.
Earlier, Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo said a 50-percent drop in firecracker injuries was expected this holiday season because of the designation of community fireworks display zones under Executive Order No. 28 and the ban on firecrackers in many places in the country.
Big bangers banned
Even in firework zones, however, big bangers are prohibited.
On Thursday, Malacañang advised the public against using illegal fireworks like “Goodbye, Earth.”
According to the Office of the Executive Secretary, fireworks that contain explosive powder exceeding 2 grams, or 1.3 teaspoons, and those charged with sulphur or phosporous mixed with chlorates are strictly prohibited.
“Also prohibited are piccolo, “Superlolo,” whistle bomb, “Goodbye, Earth” and “Atomic big triangulo,” it said.
The Palace said fireworks and pyrotechnic devices allowed under Republic Act No. 7183 were baby rocket, “bawang,” “triangulo,” pulling of strings, paper caps, “El Diablo,” “watusi,” “Judas’ belt,” sky rocket (“kwitis”) and other low-charged bangers.
Also legal are sparklers (“luces”), fountain, jumbo regular and special, “mabuhay,” Roman candle, “trompillo,” airwolf, butterfly and similar lightmaking devices.
Malacañang said legal fireworks such as sparklers may be used within residential premises.
Fireworks display zones
The Palace also said organizers of community fireworks display zones should have permits from local governments and advice from experts licensed by the Philippine National Police.
The DILG has instructed the PNP to strictly enforce fireworks regulations and warned manufacturers and sellers of banned fireworks that they would be fined or jailed or they would suffer both if they were caught breaking the prohibition.
DILG Officer in Charge Catalino Cuy said the fines ranged from P20,000 to P30,000 and jail time was six months to one year.
On Wednesday night, police arrested three people in Quezon City for selling firecrackers online without permit.
Different types of firecrackers worth P100,000 were seized from Maria Celeste Lingad and Alvin Abainza, both 38 years old and from Valenzuela City, and their helper, Danilo Tupas, 41, in an entrapment operation arranged by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) special operations unit.
Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar, QCPD director, said the city police stepped up its cyberpatrol operations in anticipation of people going around firecracker regulations by doing business online.
According to the postoperation report, an undercover agent contacted Lingad through a cell-phone number given on her website and arranged a deal.
The deal was set for 7 p.m. in the parking area of a fast-food restaurant at Mindanao and Congressional avenues.
During the presentation of the goods, however, Lingad and Abainza were unable to show the agent a permit to sell fireworks.
Other agents moved in and confiscated the fireworks, all of which were legal. They arrested Lingad, Abainza and Tupas for selling fireworks without permit.
Seized from the three were 500 whistle bombs, 800 Roman candles, 83 Judas’ belts with 100 bangers each, 500 sparklers, 300 fountains and eight “sawa” (string of small firecrackers), six of which had 10,000 crackers each.
Eleazar said Lingad, Abainza and Tupas would be charged with violation of national and municipal firecracker regulations and of EO 28.
Stricter regulations appear to have made fireworks less attractive to traders in Quezon City this year.
Roger Cuaresma, the city’s security and intelligence chief, said only one of five applications received by the Department of Public Order and Safety as of Wednesday met the requirements for permit to sell.
The requirements are fire safety inspection certificate, police fireworks safety training certificate, police license to sell fireworks, and police, court and mayor’s clearances.
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