‘Even Marcos could not ban firecrackers’

By Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star)
ANGELES CITY, Philippines – Local fireworks makers said yesterday that the plan to impose a total ban on the use of firecrackers at home during New Year’s Eve would likely fail and benefit only illegal manufacturers.

“It is too much. Even (former President Ferdinand) Marcos at the height of martial law failed to enforce a total ban,” Celso Cruz, president emeritus of the Philippine Pyrotechnics Manufacturers and Dealers Association (PPMDA), told The STAR.

Cruz described the proponents of the ban as “just new kids on the block.” The PPMDA survived a similar proposal during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Cruz recalled that Marcos imposed the ban on fireworks during martial law amid fears that explosive materials would be used by anti-government forces.

“That was at the height of martial law and yet the total ban continued to be defied,” Cruz said.

He said all moves in the past to ban firecrackers failed “because it is a tradition (welcoming New Year with fireworks) we got… way back during the centuries of Spanish regime.

“Lumang tugtugin na yan (that’s an old refrain). How can you ban it when it’s part of our tradition?” Cruz said.

He said the firecracker and pyrotechnics industry in the Philippines is worth P500 million annually and provides jobs to tens of thousands of local workers.

Cruz said the pyrotechnics manufacturers support the Philippine National Police (PNP) proposal to amend the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 7183 or the Act Regulating the Sale, Manufacture, Distribution and Use of Firecrackers and Other Pyrotechnic Devices that was passed in 1992.

“We were given the go-signal by the PNP’s Civil Security Group to come out with an amendment to the existing inadequate IRR of RA 7183 and we want to finish it in the first quarter to enable the PNP to prepare for its strict implementation by the next New Year,” Cruz said.

Cruz said the IRR would “put more teeth” to the government’s campaign against dangerous and illegal firecrackers.

He said the proposed IRR would also mandate manufacturers to submit details on what products, and how much they are manufacturing for the year and also be specific on what materials they intend to use.

Cruz lamented that the Department of Health (DOH) is apparently leading the move to ban firecrackers.

He urged the government to instead work for a more effective regulatory scheme that is already being worked out by the PPMDA.

“The 700-plus injuries last New Year’s Day were really insignificant considering there are over 90 million Filipinos. If they get statistics on injuries sustained from basketball or cycling, perhaps there are more,” he added.

The DOH has again revived the plan to ban all types of firecrackers due to the continued failure of the government campaign against illegal firecrackers during the New Year’s Eve revelry.

Health Undersecretary Eric Tayag underscored the need to review proposals for a total ban on the use of firecrackers, saying this would be discussed by the DOH, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Department of Education.

DOH confirms another fatality

The DOH confirmed yesterday that a four-month-old boy from Bacolod City who was hit by a homemade cannon called “boga” was the second fatality from fireworks.

The DOH said the victim was accidentally hit by the boga in his left eye and was rushed to Corazon Locsin Montelibano Regional Hospital in Bacolod City last Dec. 29. 2011. Three days later, the boy died due to sepsis or general infection.

The report showed that the number of firecrackers and stray bullet-related injuries rose to 854 as reports from the DOH’s 50 sentinel hospitals nationwide continued to come in.

The figure is 37 cases or six percent lower than that in the same period last year and 49 cases or 4.2 percent lower than the average from 2006 to 2010.

“Eight hundred twenty-three (96.4 percent) were fireworks-related injuries, 26 (three percent) were stray bullet injuries and five (0.6 percent) were firecracker ingestion. 505 of the cases (60 percent) were from the National Capital Region,” the DOH said.

A total of 387 cases were caused by illegal fireworks, 217 of them due to piccolo, a firecracker intended for children. Five hundred sixty-nine or 69 percent of the injuries occurred in the streets.

The number of stray bullet injuries also increased to 26 because of four new cases recorded by the DOH.

Cases of poisoning from fireworks ingestion remained at five.

The DOH had earlier reported that a 10-year-old boy from Cabanatuan City who threw collected gunpowder into a burning steel drum was the first casualty of firecracker-related accidents during the New Year’s Eve revelry.

Tayag said the boy was declared dead on arrival at the Dr. Paulino Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center in Cabanatuan City because of “massive injuries” and broken bones.

This developed as a report that has not yet been confirmed by the DOH showed that a 21-year-old man died after he was hit by a stone in the abdomen after a firecracker called “Goodbye Philippines” exploded during the New Year revelry in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya.

The report identified the fatality as Phil Ramel of Villa Coloma village, who died due to damage to his internal organs as a result of the incident, at the Veterans Regional Hospital in Bayombong.

Tayag urged victims who sustained even small cuts from firecracker blasts to consult a doctor to prevent infection.

Tayag said small wounds should not be ignored because these could lead to death when tetanus sets in.

“If there is skin opening, no matter how small, they should see a doctor. It’s not something that should be disregarded,” he said.

Tetanus can developed from eight days to three weeks after sustaining an injury. Its symptoms include headache, lock jaw, high fever and weakness but in severe cases, a patient may develop respiratory spasm leading to death.

In previous New Year revelries, the DOH observed that those who developed tetanus were the ones who sustained minor wounds and burns but ignored these.

Tayag said there is still time for those who acquired open wounds to get treatment.

Valeriano Lopez, DOH Region 1 director, said that as of Monday there were already 176 fireworks-related cases and 10 cases of gunshot wounds in the Ilocos region.

Lopez said Pangasinan, the most populated province in the region, has the highest number of firecracker injuries at 75, with children making up more than 50 percent of the victims.

In South Cotabato, a member of the Provincial Civil Security Unit has been dismissed from the service pending the filing of charges against him for indiscriminately firing his service pistol during the New Year’s Eve revelry.

South Cotabato police director Senior Superintendent Randolph Delfin identified the suspect as Romualdo Narce, 49, who was drunk when he fired his 9-mm pistol four times at the provincial government-owned demonstration farm that he was guarding in Banga town.

Delfin said several witnesses reported the incident to the police.

Responding policemen disarmed Narce and found in his possession four empty shells of his 9-mm pistol.

Narce’s superior, Jonathan Jovero, said criminal and administrative charges have been filed against Narce.– With Sheila Crisostomo, Eva Visperas, Dino Balabo, John Unson

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