Fireworks sales up but illegal traders bringing industry down
MANILA, Philippines – Pyrotechnic suppliers have been reporting higher demand in the run up to New Year compared to last year but they still stress the need to clamp down on illegal traders.
Mon Ramos, general manager of Filstar Pyrotechnics, said they’re seeing good sales this year. “Compared to last year it's quite good. It’s been around a 30% increase.”
“Sales for delivery started picking up in October and in-house sales start picking up around the last two weeks of December. The consumer line is the most popular,” he added.
Ramos however said their sales have been affected in the Visayas, especially in the areas affected by Typhoon Quinta.
John Lee, founder of LF fireworks also said sales have been steadily increasing. “Demand will always be there because this is a traditional exercise. It’s part of the culture. Demand is also growing because our population gets bigger and bigger.”
“This year, we’re seeing people slowly shifting from buying bangers and crackers to the more colorful, aerial fireworks. People are looking for bigger and bigger fireworks,” he added.
Lee added that January is also a good month for them because of the various religious fiestas and parties in the different provinces.
Fireworks gaining a bad reputation
As the illegal firework trade still thrives, legal suppliers feel they are dragging the industry’s reputation down.
“Illegal firework suppliers are affecting everyone in the industry. They sometimes rebrand their fireworks using our name. This is the sad part of the industry, they pull us down. There is a need to clamp down on them,” said Lee.
Ramos said there is a need to standardize fireworks in the Philippines to follow international standards. “A law like this would be important for the firework industry,” he said.
Lee said setting a standard is not that easy. “There are so many things that need to be identified and covered such as the type of chemical, material etc for each different firework. It’s not impossible but it will be hard,” he said.
The majority of fireworks sold in the Philippines are manufactured in China and then assembled in Bocaue, Bulacan, the Philippines' firework capital.
Because of the large number of firework-related injuries each year, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has been conducting nationwide safety seminars since August with the hope of minimizing or eliminating casualties from pyrotechnic products. The seminars target manufacturers, dealers and retailers of firecrackers and pyrotechnics.
In the run up to the holidays, the Bureau of Fire Protection also conducted surprise inspections on at least 3 areas in Bulacan known for selling fireworks. They are also confiscating illegal products and fireworks from unlicensed manufacturers.
PNP Spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo said there is a list of prohibited firecrackers which include the Watusi, Picollo, Super Lolo, Pla-pla, Goodbye Philippines, Goodbye Universe, Bin Laden and Boga, a makeshift shotgun made from PVC pipes joined together.
Lee said it’s not just the fireworks that should be monitored and banned but the suppliers and the supervisors.
“There are so many misconceptions of our industry. Take the Piccolo for example. It is one of the prime causes for injuries. But in the first place, children shouldn’t be allowed to play with fireworks. Don’t blame the fireworks, blame the supervisors or people who sell fireworks to minors,” said Lee.
Fireworks-related injuries in the week before the New Year have already shot up to 44, exceeding the number of incidents recorded in the same period last year.
"Fireworks injuries climbed to 44 as of December 24, 2012 compared to 43 last year. Metro Manila leads all regions with 14 injuries," said National Epidemiology Center head Eric Tayag on his Twitter account.
A 22-year-old man in Compostela Valley lost his thumb, index and middle fingers after picking up a "super lolo," Tayag tweeted.
According to the DOH's Injury Registry, most of the injuries were in the National Capital Region. The majority were caused by Piccolos and 80% of those injured were male between the ages of 4 and 58.
Total incidents last year exceeded 987.
The health department is considering a partial or total fireworks ban if injuries continue to rise. The city government of Davao has already imposed a total ban on firecrackers.
It started with the Chinese
Fireworks in the Philippines date back to the arrival of Chinese immigrants when they used the item to barter for local supplies. Firework manufacturing and use were then modified during the arrival of the Americans during the second World War.
The industry saw a period of stagnation during Martial Law in 1972 when fireworks were declared illegal with many of the manufacturers and distributors forced to go underground.
Because of this, quality degenerated and most of the production was geared towards the less sophisticated "bangers" and skyrockets.
In January 1992, the Fireworks Law was passed legalizing the manufacture, sale and use of pyrotechnic devices. Since then, manufacturers and suppliers have been flourishing across the country particularly in Bulacan. – Rappler.com