Safe merriment

Safe merriment

As of Friday afternoon, 22 people had been reported injured by firecrackers nationwide since the Department of Health started keeping track on Dec. 21. The number is 12 percent lower than in the same period last year, according to the DOH, which reported that the injuries were caused mainly by luces, boga, kwitis and piccolo.

The drop can be attributed to a sustained information campaign that has heightened public awareness of the risks of handling firecrackers. Rising prices have also contributed to the decline, as police raids and lower demand have reduced the number of local manufacturers, consequently tightening supply.

The campaign is backed by better enforcement of laws banning certain types of firecrackers – both the huge, powerful ones like “Bin Laden” as well as the small ones like watusi that are often accidentally swallowed by children or cause tetanus even from a small wound.

Watusi and firecrackers such as the small cylindrical piccolo and sawa or python have been banned for many years, yet they keep surfacing before New Year’s Eve, sold openly on sidewalks by ambulant vendors. This year has been no different, but police are promising an intensified crackdown.

The local pyrotechnics industry, now struggling to survive, is emphasizing that the law allows the use of fireworks. The industry, which employs thousands in its hub in Bocaue, Bulacan, has also exerted effort to improve the quality and safety of local products, to enable them to compete with the spectacular visual delight provided by imported pyrotechnics.

Aware of the concerns of the fireworks industry, public health authorities are encouraging local government units to work with communities in staging common fireworks displays, so that people can be enticed to forgo the household use of pyrotechnics.

Many Filipinos still want to greet the New Year with bright lights and noisy revelry. It cannot be emphasized enough that the merriment need not be at the expense of personal safety.