MANILA, Philippines – Fireworks- and firecracker-related injuries during the New Year revelry are close to breaching the 1,000 mark, prompting health officials and lawmakers to call for stricter regulations.
In a press conference on Friday, January 3, Department of Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said the department recorded a total of 933 fireworks-related injuries as of Friday, 6 am.
The DOH is collecting reports from 50 hospitals nationwide until January 5, when it will make its final tally.
Of the figure so far, Tayag said 914 were fireworks and firecracker injuries, while there were two firecracker ingestions, and 17 stray bullet injuries.
On his Twitter account, Tayag said the numbers were higher than 2012 figures. That year, the total fireworks-related injuries were pegged at 919, with 892 fireworks injuries, two firecracker ingestions, and 25 injuries due to stray bullets.
“We are sad because there was an 11-year-old who picked up a firecracker and the child lost his two hands,” Tayag said in Filipino.
Tayag said the long holiday vacation may have contributed to the higher tally of fireworks-related injuries this year.
The banned firecracker Piccolo remained the leading cause of the injuries, with 354 out of the 914 fireworks and firecracker-related injuries attributed to it.
Tayag lamented that despite the ban, Filipinos are able to buy banned firecrackers. He called for improved law enforcement by the police and better coordination with the Bureau of Customs to ensure that banned firecrackers do not enter the Philippines.
“Every year, we call for a ban on firecrackers because the injuries dominate the news but then it will die down. We should not allow this to happen again,” he said.
Tayag also explained that the DOH and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have different figures on the number of stray bullet victims because the department bases its figures on reports from the hospitals.
Tayag said that in the DOH count, there are no fatalities due to stray bullets while the PNP has said that a stray bullet killed a 3-month-old baby in Ilocos Sur and a toddler in Ilocos Norte.
The PNP said that there were about 30 victims of stray bullets, higher than the DOH count.
As of 6:00 AM jan 3 Total FW related injuries 933: FW injuries 914 FW ingestion 2 Stray bullet 17 #apircorrected @dohgovph— Doc Eric Tayag (@erictayagSays) January 3, 2014
11 year old from Balong Bato QC lost both hands yesterday after picking up several unknown FW He is now at MCU hospital #apir @DOHgovph— Doc Eric Tayag (@erictayagSays) January 3, 2014
Gun control; ‘Watch, don’t touch’
Tayag reiterated his call for the public to “just watch, don’t touch,” and the DOH’s support for lawmakers’ proposal to ban the sale of firecrackers to individuals, and limit fireworks displays to communities.
The assistant secretary added that more towns and cities want to follow the example of Davao City, which banned fireworks and firecrackers since 2001. Instead, Davao launched a Torotot Festival using party horn blowers to ring in the New Year.
In a statement on Friday, Senator Nancy Binay called for stricter gun control measures after the death of the baby in Ilocos Sur. She cited the case of another two-year-old from Ilocos Norte who was reportedly wounded in the head by a stray bullet.
“The families of these children are grieving. The children were made human toys in a playground of gun-toting neighbors. Random crimes like rape and indiscriminate firing create fear and anxiety in every home. Nakakalungkot isipin na kahit nasa loob ng bahay eh hindi na rin safe,” Binay said. (It is sad to think that people are not safe in their own homes.)
Binay urged the PNP to come up with a “comprehensive profiling of gun owners who either own registered or loose firearms,” and to “conduct community-based investigations and audit to check on holders of unlicensed and home-made ordnances.”
Last July, the senator filed a bill penalizing the sale of firecrackers and fireworks to children aged 15 or below. Under her bill, those violating the prohibition will get a prison sentence of 6 months to 6 years, and a fine of P50,000 to P250,000.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago also refiled a bill banning the use of fireworks in residential areas. Instead, Santiago’s bill mandates local governments to designate a common area for firecracker use. This area must not be located in a residential zone.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona and Malacañang have expressed support for Santiago’s proposal.
What are your thoughts on the proposals? How can the Philippines avoid fireworks-related injuries? Let us know in the comments section below. – Ayee Macaraig/Rappler.com
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