DOH: Scrap fireworks, donate to disaster survivors

Jee Y. Geronimo

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DOH's Eric Tayag draws attention to this message by dancing to the tune of Katy Perry's 'Roar'

LIKE KATY PERRY. DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag says dancing can be an alternative to lighting fireworks and firecrackers during the holidays. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – “Ang dami na nating disgrasya ngayong taon. Huwag na tayong dumagdag sa magiging problema.” (We already experienced so many disasters this year. Let’s not add to the problem.)

Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag made this appeal Friday, December 13, as the Department of Health (DOH) launched its Iwas-Paputok campaign.

With the theme “Maging Ligtas Ngayong Kapaskuhan, Mga Biktima ng Kalamidad Handugan,” the department upped the ante of its campaign by encouraging Filipinos to donate to disaster victims instead of buying fireworks and firecrackers this holiday season. 

So tumulong na lang kayo, marami namang paraan. Puwede kayong gumamit ng torotot, tambol, mga homemade na merrymaking. Puwede ‘yung sayaw. Kaya nga nagtuturo kami ng simpleng sayaw, puwede niyong sabayan,” Tayag added.

(Please help instead; there are many ways to do so. You can use torotot, tambol, homemade merrymaking, even dance. This is why we teach simple dance steps you can follow.)

The second half of the year, after all, saw a slew of manmade and natural disasters. These include the Zamboanga crisis and the massive flooding in Olongapo City last September, the magnitude-7.2 earthquake in the Visayas last October, and most recently, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which killed over 6,000 people.

The DOH also encouraged local governments to conduct community fireworks displays instead of letting families light their own fireworks.

Known for his dance moves during health campaigns, Tayag drew attention to this message by dancing to the tune of Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

Target: Less than 500

In a report released Monday, December 9, the DOH said most injuries during last year’s holiday celebrations involved children ages 6-10 years old.

The Fireworks-Related Injury Surveillance, covering Dec 21, 2012 to Jan 5, 2013, revealed that these children received firecrackers from parents or elder siblings.

“Injuries due to prohibited fireworks were 4 times more likely to occur among those aged less than 18 years, 3 times more likely to occur among those aged 5-12 years, and 3 times more likely to occur among males,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona said in a statement.

The department also recorded 931 injuries during this period, most of which happened in the National Capital Region, particularly in the city of Manila:

  • 904 were due to fireworks
  • 25 were due to stray bullets
  • 2 were cases of firecracker ingestion (piccolo and luces)

Most injuries were caused by piccolo (236 injuries), followed by unknown firecrackers (143 injuries), kwitis (128 injuries), 5-star (55 injuries), and pla-pla (42 injuries).

This year, Tayag hopes to lessen the number of injuries to lower than 500. “Matanggal lang natin ‘yung piccolo maganda na siguro magiging resulta.” (If we could only remove the piccolo, we may achieve good results.)

But he said the number of injuries has relatively declined compared to past years, with only one death compared to 2011’s 4 deaths:

  • fireworks-related injuries: 8% lower
  • stray bullets injuries: 14% lower
  • firecracker ingestion: 60% lower

6 TO 10. According to data from the Department of Health, most fireworks-related injuries involved children ages 6 to 10 years old. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

Fireworks, toxic-free New Year

Green group EcoWaste Coalition, for its part, promoted “safe and eco-sensitive substitutes to deadly and costly firecrackers.”

Recent findings by the group revealed the presence of high amounts of toxic metals such as antimony, barium, and lead in various consumer fireworks purchased in the first week of December from street vendors located along Juan Luna, M de Santos, Sto Cristo and Tabora Streets in Divisoria, Manila. (READ: Toxic toys being sold in Baclaran.)

“The use of firecrackers and pyrotechnics to usher the New Year has long been identified as a major source of accidental injuries and deaths, as well as toxic chemical pollution,” Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said in a statement Friday. 

The group also encouraged donating fireworks and firecrackers money to victims of Yolanda.

“We request our fellow Filipinos preparing for their yearly pyrotechnic shows to cancel your plans and instead donate the money you’ll save to help the typhoon victims,” Lucero said.

But welcoming the New Year in an eco-friendly way doesn’t have to be quiet and boring. EcoWaste Coalition recommends 15 ways Filipinos can celebrate 2014 minus the dangerous and toxic fireworks and firecrackers:

  1. Save a finger, blow a torotot (Pinoy-style trumpets)
  2. Bang cymbals from pot and pan covers
  3. Shake maracas made out of used tin cans
  4. Rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle crowns
  5. Joggle “piggy banks” or “shakers” from paper box or plastic bottles with seeds, pebbles, or coins
  6. Tap drums made of big water bottles, biscuit cans, or buckets
  7. Create whistling sounds, or get a whistle and blow it
  8. Beat the batya or palanggana (washbasin) with a ladle or stick
  9. Knock empty coconut shells
  10. Switch on the radio or play your favorite music or musical instruments
  11. Ring the alarm clocks or play ringtones altogether
  12. Honk bicycle or car horns
  13. Clap your hands and stump your feet
  14. Laugh your lungs out and bid your worries goodbye
  15. Do the “Roar” like Tayag, twerk, twist, and shout “Happy New Year!”


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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.