MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – At least 164 people sustained injuries related to fireworks as Filipinos welcomed the new decade, Health Secretary Francisco Duque announced on Thursday, January 1.
Duque said in a news briefing that the number of injuries recorded from December 21, 2019 to January 1, 2020, is 35% lower than last year’s 249 injuries, recorded within the same period. The latest figure is also 71% lower than the 5-year average of 403 cases from 2014 to 2018, he added.
The ages of the victims ranged from 1 to 71 years old, and more than half or 104 cases involved victims 15 years old and younger. Males were also injured more than women, comprising 70% of the cases.
Blast or burn injuries comprised 71% of the cases, eye injuries 26%, and blasts and burns requiring amputation 4%.
The victims were from Metro Manila (84), Calabarzon (13), Ilocos Region (12), Central Luzon (11), Cagayan Valley (10), and Western Visayas (10). Though it remains on top on the list of firework-related injuries, Metro Manila recorded a 16% decrease from figures in 2018.
Duque attributed the decrease to Executive Order No. 28 restricting the use of firecrackers to community fireworks displays authorized by local governments.
In October 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to crack down 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 existing manufacturers are reviewed for compliance to laws.
The DOH said legal fireworks caused most of the injuries, prompting Duque to advocate for an “absolute ban” on all types of firecrackers.
Four out of 5 of the main causes of firework-related injuries were legal firecrackers: kwitis, luces, fountain, and baby rocket. Only piccolo is illegal among the 5.
Duque said the DOH has "the moral ascendancy to lead a ban on fireworks." He added that the agency would be receptive to views of other sectors and would advocate for a ban that would put into consideration the livelihood of those who might be affected.
"This is not a one-dimensional issue as there are economic implications, there are kivelihoods affected, we will need to have a balanced approach," the health secretary said.
He emphasized, however, the urgency of imposing a ban, as "legal or illegal, fireworks are injurious" and are a threat to public health.
So far, only the following firecrackers are declared illegal by the government:
Manufacturing, selling, distributing, or using illegal fireworks is punishable by imprisonment of 6 months to one year, and a fine of P20,000 to P30,000.
Road to zero injury?
In a statement, EcoWaste Coalition campaigner Thony Dizon expressed disappointment over the hundreds injured due to firecrackers.
“One injury is one too many and our society has to do more to discontinue the bloody and polluting tradition of ringing in the New Year with firecrackers and fireworks, legal or not,” Dizon said.
Dizon reiterated EcoWaste’s call to ban firecrackers and related devices as a way to achieve zero injury and zero pollution.
“Our society has to make difficult decisions in order to protect public health and the environment, including phasing out the production of firecrackers and fireworks and finding alternative livelihoods for the affected sector,” he said. – Rappler.com