MANILA, Philippines – It’s that time of the year again, when the Department of Health (DOH) begins its campaign discouraging Filipinos from using firecrackers and fireworks this holiday season.
But unlike previous years, there were no health officials and beauty queens dancing during the launch of the campaign on Thursday, December 11.
Instead, the department’s message was simple and direct: Mahalaga ang buhay. Iwasan ang paputok. (Life is precious. Avoid using firecrackers.)
“The DOH would like to say that there are other means to celebrate than exploding firecrackers and lighting fireworks. Mahalaga ang buhay (Life is precious). It is not worth risking losing lives and limbs,” Acting Secretary Janette Garin said in a statement Thursday.
Data from the health department show that the number of fireworks-related injuries increased from 931 in 2012 to 1,018 in 2013, with one reported death:
- 997 were due to fireworks
- 19 were due to stray bullets
- 2 were cases of firecracker ingestion
One in every 4 cases involved a young boy aged 6 to 10 years old, and more than half or 58% of the incidents happened in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Similar to 2012 figures, most injuries were still caused by piccolo (38%), followed by unknown firecrackers (12%), kwitis (11%), 5-star (5%), and pla-pla (4%).
The department also recorded 25 cases of amputations in 2013.
Health Spokesperson Lyndon Lee Suy said firecrackers can cause blindness or even death due to tetanus. The smoke from firecrackers can also worsen the condition of people with asthma.
Alternatives to fireworks, firecrackers
Green group EcoWaste Coalition appealed for more police action to stop the illegal trade of the “cheap and small but terrible firecracker,” piccolo.
NCR Police Chief Inspector Carlo Manuel said they will penalize violators of Republic Act 7183 or the law regulating the trade and use of firecrackers in the Philippines. (READ: Which firecrackers are allowed by law?)
Police will also be on alert during the holidays, especially in crowded Manila areas such as Baseco, Binondo, and Sampaloc.
Superintendent Jaime Ramirez, fire marshal of the Bureau of Fire Protection in Manila, said they will continue to ban sky lanterns and urge Filipinos not to use baby rockets since the two firecrackers cause about 25% of fire incidents in the country.
Garin encouraged Filipinos to use other noisemakers such as torotot, car horns, and loud music to celebrate the holidays.
The health department is set to raise code white alert for the holidays starting December 20. This means medical personnel in DOH facilities will be on call to attend to patients any time.
Meanwhile, hospital surveillance of fireworks-related injuries will begin on December 21 and end on January 5, 2015. – Rappler.com
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