The Department Of Health (DOH) , headed by its Acting Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin, had commenced its anti-firecracker campaign last 21 December 2014. Held in preparation for the emergencies in relation to holiday celebrations, this 16-day campaign places every medical personnel of the DOH Head and Regional offices, government- administered hospitals and selected private hospitals on “Code White” alert. According to authorities, such a term means that all units will be on stand- by for any incident up until the 5th of January.
As tradition dictates, Filipinos usually receive the New Year with a bang. With the use of various firecrackers and fireworks, there is a belief that evil spirits would be driven away. Every year, the DOH tries to come up with straight-forward themes to try discourage the use of this firecrackers and other pyrotechnic materials. And this year’s theme, dubbed as “Mahalaga ang Buhay, Iwasan ang paputok,” is no different.
In past few years, as the recorded injuries increased, the Department have been suggesting various ways to celebrate the holidays. These include community fireworks display, recording of the exploding firecrackers and street parties. Further, DOH officials recommended the use of other materials that could also produce loud noises such as torotots, pots, pans, drums, and car horns. Of course, one cannot forget the dance craze popularized by Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag. Not only was the dance a way to discourage the use of firecrackers but is also friendly on one’s pocket.
“There are other means to celebrate than exploding firecrackers and lighting fireworks,” the Acting DOH Secretary added.
Even local chief executives are getting on the bandwagon of a safer New Year celebration. Since 2001, Davao City had already banned sale, distribution, possession and use of firecrackers and fireworks within their locality. Recently there are other areas that followed this initiative made by the home of the Kadayawan festival. These areas include Muntinlupa City, Baguio City, Zamboanga City, Kidapawan City and Bacolod City and Pateros.
Last year, there were about 1,018 recorded injuries. A figure that is considerably higher than those recorded in 2012 of about 9 percent (9%). Among those recorded, 997 cases were firework-related injuries while there were two (2) for firecracker ingestion. Only one (1) death was recorded. Based on reports, the death was due to multiple injuries caused by explosion of a mixture made out of different firecracker powder.
From the reports that have been gathered over the years, it was apparent that most of the injuries have been caused by piccolo, kwitis, five-star and plapla. Funny how people could still get a hold of these while they have already been banned in the Philippines. However since Filipinos are known for being very innovative, some manufacturers and producers found ways to circumvent such prohibition. Last year, a significant number of the injuries were caused by unidentified fireworks. Such a fact urged legislators in looking at the possibility of banning firecrackers permanently.
Senator Miriam Santiago already filed a bill with the Senate in 2007. Senate Bill No. 1876, involves the permanent ban within residential areas based on zoning by each respective government unit involved. A similar bill was also filed by Senator Tito Sotto, citing the number of injuries caused by stray bullets. According to Sotto, when people are not allowed to use firecracker, gun owners would not have a cover for firing their guns. Although such bills garnered much support from both the public and private sector, the DOH is still open to have dialogues with concerned agencies and other interested parties regarding this matter.
There is also the issue of injuries caused by stray bullets have drastically increased. The DOH and the Philippine National Police (PNP) were alarmed with the figures after last year’s campaign. Nineteen (19) cases were recorded as injuries with such nature.
To strengthen PNP’s campaign against indiscriminate firing and illegal discharge during the holidays, Deputy Director General Eduardo Espina, PNP Officer-In-Charge, issued a memorandum which mandates that muzzles of all detailed firearms be taped until 3rd January of the next year. According to Espina, “the traditional gun muzzle is a strong message to all gun owner, especially our policemen and soldiers, who are primary enforcers of the law to refrain from firing their guns and help prevent casualties and injuries during the revelry of the yuletide.”
Such tradition also is to discourage the private gun owners from indiscriminately discharging their firearms. Moreover, PNP Officials are also asking utmost vigilance and assistance of the public. The public is persuaded to report any incident. A picture or video of such firing or bullet slug would suffice as evidence.
As the New Year celebration is drawing near, the campaign for monitoring the injuries caused by fireworks and firecrackers intensifies. As of press time, hospitals all over the country consider themselves prepared for any type of injury. In Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital alone, in line with DOH’s campaign, there would be around 100 doctors on duty for New Year Eve’s celebration.
According to submitted reports, there were less severe injuries last year. Nevertheless, DOH Official still believe that there is still a need to remind people that life is more important than the thrill than one would get. “Mahalaga ang Buhay. It is not worth risking losing lives and limbs,” Garin advised.
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