Palace backs total ban on firecrackers

New Year’s Eve injuries close to 600

THE Palace on Wednesday threw its support behind a proposal by the Health Department to ban the use and sale of firecrackers altogether.

As the number of people injured in firecracker-related incidents came close to 600 and as police reported two deaths, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said only fireworks displays in designated areas should be allowed on New Year’s Eve.

They don’t learn. A victim of a firecracker explosion
waits for a doctor’s clearance before leaving the
Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital in Santa Cruz, Manila.
Danny Pata
Firecracker manufacturers, he added, should be extended assistance to shift production to safe fireworks.

“The Palace is standing firm behind the proposal of Health Secretary Ona,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said.

“It is time to have a safe alternative to the dangerous firecrackers that are used to celebrate New Year,” he added.

Ona said the executive branch will discuss the proposed firecracker ban with Congress.

Ona cited the case of Davao City, which was able to implement a total ban on firecrackers for the last 11 years and counting.

The health chief said the law regulating the sale, manufacture, distribution and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnics must be amended.

Piccolo, a banned but inexpensive firecracker, remained the major cause of injuries, accounting for more than 60 percent of the casualties recorded.

“We realized the existing laws do not allow local governments, even the country, to ban fireworks. This is for our legislators to consider. The DOH will give them evidence (that) it is time to completely ban

(firecrackers),” Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said.

The Health Department statistics did not include a three-month-old baby that was killed by a stray bullet in Ilocos Sur and a two-year-old boy who was in critical condition in Laoag City, also after a stray bullet injury.

Lawmakers were divided over proposals to ban all kinds of firecrackers.

In separate interviews with the Manila Standard, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna, and Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman rejected a total ban.

On the other hand, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting and Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan supported it.

Belmonte said there is no need for Congress to pass a law that will prohibit the use firecrackers during the New Year celebration as it should be left to local government units to to do.

Belmonte said that there are other cities, such as Davao and Zamboanga, which has imposed a total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers.

Hataman-Salliman shared a similar view, saying that firecracker-related injuries could only be prevented if every individual would have the will to refrain from using firecrackers.

Tugna, who hails from Bulacan or the country’s main sources of firecrackers, also opposed bills in Congress banning all firecrackers, saying this would deprive many Filipinos of livelihood.

“What we need is good regulation, not a total prohibition that includes small firecrackers,” Tugna said.

He also branded such proposals as”unconstitutional and unfair” to Filipinos whose livelihood for generations has been the fireworks and small firecrackers.

Earlier, Ona underscored the need to amend the law regulating the sale, manufacture, distribution and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnics.

Evardone, Ilagan and Tambunting supported Ona’s proposal.

“I am in favor banning it. And I hope that authorities will have the political will to implement it once a law is passed,” Evardone said.

Tambunting said it was the right time to ban firecrackers for private use.

“Only professional firecrackers for public display should be allowed. We need to protect our people from these kinds of accidents. Aside from protecting our people from these injuries , we will also be doing the environment good,” Tambunting said.

Ilagan said effective implementation was the key.

Even if there is a law banning all firecrackers, Ilagan said, it would be useless if the law is not implemented properly.

“I think it should start at the local level to ensure full implementation. Our usual problem is implementation,” Ilagan said.

Health officials said Wednesday there were more firecracker-related injuries in 2013 compared to the previous year,

Tayag said nearly half of all firecracker injuries were caused by the illegal firecracker piccolo.

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, Tayag said, there were 599 fireworks-related injuries recorded in 50 sentinel hospitals nationwide.

Of these, 589 (98.3 percent) were due to firework injuries, one (0.2 percent) was from firework ingestion and nine (1.5 percent) came from stray bullets. The annual count of fireworks-related injuries begins Dec. 21.

Tayag said the 2013 injuries were 43 percent more than those in 2012, and 29 percent higher than the five-year average of 464 such injuries.

Most of the injuries – 345 or 58 percent – came from Metro Manila in 2013, he said. This was made up of Manila (40 percent), Quezon City (19 percent), Las Pinas (8 percent), Marikina (7 percent), and Caloocan (5 percent).

Eight of 10 injuries were suffered by male victims. There were 143 cases involving children under 10 years of age.

There were fewer injuries suffered by bystanders in 2013 – 214 or 36 percent of the total, compared to 44 percent in 2012.

There were eight amputations in 2013, compared to 13 in 2012. There were 86 eye inuries in 2013, up from 78 in the previous year.

Some 161 people were injured in just 12 hours, from 6 a.m. of Dec. 31 to midnight, three government hospitals reported.

Tayag said the department also noticed a spike in firecracker injuries on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Health Undersecretary Janet Garin said despite the higher number of injuries, the campaign against firecrackers was still effective since many Filipinos are now opting to use party horns and attend dance parties to celebrate the New Year.

“The problem is that the injuries keep on going up. There is a need for a concerted effort of the DOH and the other agencies. No matter how much the government campaign, it is still difficult if (firecrackers) are being sold at low price,” said.

She said Ona’s call to have a community-based fireworks display and to ban the sale and use of firecrackers in residential areas would help.

Police said a three-month-old baby, hit by a stray bullet, died in Ilocos Sur while a 2-year-old boy was in critical condition in Laoag City.

Police also reported stray bullet injuries in Manila and Paranaque.

Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor, a spokesman for Philippine National Police chief Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima, identified the fatality as Von Alexander Llagas, a 3-month-old and resident of Cauayan, Ilocos Sur.

The victim was taken to the Gabriela Silang Hospital in Vigan, Ilocos Sur after a stray bullet hit him in the forehead.

The baby, whose parents have yet to identified, said he was in a room inside their house when he was hit by a bullet when the revelry began midnight.

Police also reported that a 20-year-old graduating student died when a firecracker exploded in his face in the town of Alcala in Cagayan Valley.

They identified the victim as John Sales, a 4th year student at St. Louie University in Cagayan Valley.

Witnesses said a fountain blew up in front of the victim who had replaced its contents with several piccolo. Seconds after it was lit, the fountain exploded.

A two-year-old boy was in critical condition at Laoag City Medical Center after he was hit by a stray bullet.

Doctors at Laoag City Hospital said a .45 caliber slug pierced the skull of Angelo Corpuz, a resident of San Nicolas town.

A doctor told a radio news program that Corpuz had a slim chance of survival as they could not remove the slug until his condition improved.

In Manila, a stray bullet grazed the shoulder of a 25-year-old housewife on Taft Avenue.

Michelle Tabutabu, a resident of Nasugbu, Batangas, was walking home along Taft Avenue from the Luneta Park when something hit her shoulder.

Mayor said the police recorded 26 incidents of gun-related injuries over the New Year.

Some 21 people were arrested in various parts of the country for the illegal possession, use and sale of firecrackers, he said. With Maricel V. Cruz, Macon Ramos-Araneta, Francisco Tuyay and Florante S. Solmerin



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