DOH reminds public: Skip firecrackers this New Year's eve

DAGUPAN, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) reminded the public, especially young kids, to celebrate New Year's Eve without using firecrackers in th agency’s bid to keep the number firecracker-related injuries and accidents at zero.  

“We advise our parents to keep a watchful eye on your children this season,” said health secretary Francisco Duque III during the launch of this year’s Iwas Paputok Campaign Thursday, December 5, in Dagupan City, Pangasinan.  

Dagupan recorded 17 cases of firecracker-related injuries, which added to the 160 total injuries recorded in the Ilocos Region. The northern region is only second to Manila in terms of firecracker-related injuries in 2019 so far.

The DOH reported 340 firecracker-related injuries nationwide from December 21 2018, January 5, 2019, an almost 40% decrease compared to the same period the year prior, which saw 550 cases. 

Duque said this downward trend was a good sign, but noted that the DOH would keep "communicating to the public the dangers of fireworks use" to absolutely avoid firecracker injuries this year. 

He also said DOH hospitals across the country are to put up signs showing the harms of firecracker use to further discourage young people from using them.

IWAS PAPUTOK. The Department of Health amps up its campaign against firecracker use. Photo by Janella Paris/Rappler

IWAS PAPUTOK. The Department of Health amps up its campaign against firecracker use.

Photo by Janella Paris/Rappler

"The DOH is advocating alternative and equally enjoyable ways of celebrating the holidays and welcoming the new year without the risk of physical harm," Duque said. He said street parties, musical concerts, and blowing horns or torotot can be alternatives to firecrackers for noise-making. 

He also said kids and parents may watch community firecracker displays from their houses, provided that they themselves do not participate. Those who want to hold community firework displays are to register with the Department of Local and the Interior Goernment (DILG), who would ensure that the activity is done in public squares with lots of open space. 

Duque said that crowded spaces increase the concentration of smoke, which is more harmful to the general public, especially those with asthma and other respiratory complications. He added that firecracker use increases the risk not only of physical and other health injuries but of fires as well. 

Duterte's executive order: Last October 2018, President Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to crackdown on the illegal sale and manufacturing of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

He also ordered that no new licenses or permits for the firecracker industry be issued until those with such documents are reviewed for compliance to laws. 

Earlier in 2017, he restricted the use of firecrackers only to community fireworks displays authorized by local governments. Duterte’s executive order, EO No. 28, prohibiting private citizens from staging their own fireworks displays in their homes, was credited by the DOH for reducing the number of fireworks-related injuries during New Year’s eve.

In 2018, for example, the government reported a 77% decrease in fireworks-related injuries compared to the 5-year average.

But Duque floated the idea of banning firecrackers – even those legally sold – altogether. He said lawmakers should consider legislation banning all firecrackers, echoing Duterte who said he wanted Congress to pass a law banning fireworks and pyrotechnics. –