Merrymaking sans the tears: Government seeks ‘compromise’ with New Year’s Eve fire-works-use tradition to lessen injuries

ROCKETS GALORE– Enticingly displayed on a recycled bucket, rockets on sticks better known as ‘Kwitis’ frame a firecracker vendor while tying bundles of the flying blasters at a designated fireworks zone in Santiago City, Isabela. Oblivious of the risks, many still welcome the New Year with varieties of pyrotechnics. (Ceasar M. Perante/mb.com.ph)

By Rene Acosta/businessmirror.com.ph – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has vowed strict fireworks regulation and control during the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day revelry, with PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde’s order to all police commanders to strictly enforce Executive Order (EO) 28, which prohibits the use of certain types of firecrackers.

As the PNP stepped up its preparations, Albayalde also asked the public to observe President Duterte’s order, the main purpose of which was to minimize, if not totally stop, injuries related to firecracker use, no matter if there are still incidents of injuries reported by the media days ahead of New Year’s Eve.

The President issued EO 28 in June last year to regulate the use of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices and limited it only to community fireworks as a stop-gap measure to reverse the growing number of injuries arising from their use.

What to follow

EO 28 also mandated the PNP to cancel, revoke and confiscate the inventory or stocks of those found in violation of existing laws, rules and regulations, and called for the strict enforcement of the prohibition on the sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices to Filipinos below 18 years old.

Albayalde said police commanders are ordered to make sure that the spirit and intent of Duterte’s order are fully carried out and observed on the ground as the country prepares to welcome the New Year.

Banned firecrackers should not be used and those legally allowed for the revelry should only be allowed in areas designated as pyrotechnics’ zone, he said.

Inspections

In Bulacan, the provincial police office has tightened its monitoring on the manufacture and sale of banned firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices by visiting dealers and manufacturers, and subjecting these to inspections.

Stronger police presence was also established, especially in Bocaue, the fireworks capital of the country, in order to ensure that dealers only sell firecrackers and fireworks that do not violate laws and regulations.

The PNP has been making preparations for the New Year as early as last month, especially on how it could help the government scale down injuries that seriously mar the celebrations.

Albayalde said that since last month, they have already suspended the processing of new licenses and permits for the manufacture, sale and distribution of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices in response to the President’s Memorandum Order 31 issued in October.

Review order

The President issued the memorandum suspending the issuance of new licenses and permits in order to give way to a thorough review of all the existing licensees and check their compliance with laws, rules and regulations.

The memorandum specifically mandated the PNP, in coordination with other concerned agencies and the local governments, to conduct inspections to ensure that manufacturers, distributors, retailers and users of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices are in compliance with the government’s safety guidelines and regulations.

In issuing the directive, Duterte wanted to end the presence of clandestine firecracker and pyrotechnics factories in Bulacan and other parts of the country, which have been blamed for a number of deadly accident explosions in the past.

Albayalde said the PNP strictly implemented Duterte’s order and has ensured that the licensees followed existing laws, rules and regulations on firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

Products allowed

As part of the effort to enforce Duterte’s orders and bring down injuries relating to the use of firecrackers and pyrotechnics, the Department of the Interior and Local Government has come up with a list of products that could be used for the New Year revelry.

These are the Baby Rocket; Bawang; El Diablo; Judas’s Belt; Paper Caps; “Pulling of strings”; Sky Rocket; and Small Triangulo. These, however, are only allowed to be used in designated firecracker zones, established by local officials in coordination with the police.

Pyrotechnics, such as Butterly; Fountain (jumbo, regular and luces); Mabuhay; Roman candle; Sparklers; and Trompillo are allowed outside the designated revelry zones.

On the other hand, those which are banned outright are watusi; piccolo; Super Lolo; Atomic Triangle; large Judas’s Belt; large Bawang; Pillbox; boga; Goodbye Philippines; Bin Laden; Mother Rockets; Lolo Thunder; Coke-in-Can; Kwitom; Atomic Bomb; Five Star; pla-pla; Giant whistle bomb; and kabasi.

One can only hazard a guess that when street sweepers clean up the streets of the revelry’s detritus on New Year’s morning, much of what will show up are parts of these banned products. Bad habits are hard to break in this country. Still, there’s no harm in hoping that good, safe practices will in time take root. And more and more people will realize that one can be merry without risking tragedy.

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