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’Cracker blast injuries high despite info drive

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A TOTAL of 90 firecracker-related injuries have been recorded as of Wednesday, Dec. 28, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said.

In a press conference, Ubial said that of the 90 cases, 89 are blast injuries from firecrackers while one is considered a case of ingestion. She said 58 percent of the cases were caused by the illegal piccolo firecracker.

Of the firecracker injuries, 69 were children. Twenty-one suffered eye injuries. Most victims were male.

The department has been monitoring firecracker-related injuries since Dec. 22 as part of its #IwasPaputok campaign.

While the number of firework-related injuries increased from 70 last Dec. 26 to 90 two days later, the figure was still 39 percent lower compared to the 147 reported for the same period last year.

Most of the injuries have been recorded in Metro Manila.

“No less than 45 of the 89 cases or 50 percent of all cases comes from NCR [Metro Manila]. The next region with the highest is Region 6 with 10 percent or 11 percent of the total cases and followed by Calabarzon or Region 4-A with 10 percent of the cases,” said Ubial.

In the National Capital Region, she said Manila City leads the list with the most number of injuries or 40 percent of the total NCR injury list, followed by Quezon City with 27 percent, and Mandaluyong City.

MAKING READY. Orthopedic surgeon Mark Anthony Arias shows the medical tools used for cutting bones of firecracker victims at the government’s Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center as the Department of Health gets ready for the New year emergency calls. Norman Cruz

In Region 6 or Western Visayas, 30 percent of the reported firecracker injuries come from Bacolod, 20 percent from Bago City, and 20 percent from Iloilo City. 

Ubial urged the public and local government units to use safe merrymaking instruments, alternative noise makers such as torotot (horns) or car horns. She said they can also play loud music or resort to street parties and street dancing. 

She also called on local government units to organize community fireworks displays to minimize household or individual use of firecrackers. 

She said they have already talked to officials from Marikina City, who said the city would likely hold a community fireworks display as its residents welcome 2017. 

Last year, the DoH recorded a total of 932 firecracker-related injuries between Dec. 21, 2015 and Jan. 5, 2016. There was also one death due to massive injuries from an exploding Goodbye Philippines firecracker.

The DoH has already submitted a draft Executive Order to President Rodrigo Duterte that seeks a shift from individual household use of firecrackers to a community fireworks display. 

Duterte, however, deferred signing the after some industry groups lobbied against it. 

“The EO has undergone complete staff work and was reviewed by Malacañang already, but other Cabinet members were saying that we will implement it or the President will sign it by next year because of the very late proposal that came from the DoH,” said Ubial. 

“So the industry has already produced the fireworks and firecrackers that it would be difficult if these will be stored, so it will be dangerous also,” she added.

Despite rising number of firecracker injuries, the Department of Labor and Employment   has allowed more establishments in the country to sell and manufacture pyrotechnics and firecrackers after complying with the general labor and occupational safety and health standards.

The government fears that the number of firectacker injuries would rise as many people still continue to buy the illegal firecrackers, especially the banned “piccolo” which is the main cause of injuries among children.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, however, said a thorough assessment showed that 319 manufacturers of pyrotechnics and firecrackers were found to be compliant with labor and safety standards.

The Labor Department earlier lifted work-stoppage orders on 174 firecracker manufacturers, following a nationwide order to stop operations following the recent explosions in a fireworks factory in Bulacan that killed five people and injured 30 others

On Wednesday, the city government of Makati said it will reimpose a total firecracker ban in barangays Bangkal, Pio del Pilar and Magallanes, the communities near the West Tower condominium where a petroleum pipeline leak was discovered in 2010.

Mayor Abigail Binay reminded residents and business owners in the three barangays to strictly observe the ban. 

Carlo Arcilla, director of the National Institute of Geological Sciences—College of Science in University of the Philippines, had warned that returning residents of the condominium in Barangay Bangkal remain in danger of contracting lung cancer due to benzene contamination and the polluted ground water caused by the leak in 2010.

He said roughly 400,000 liters of leaked petroleum products remain underground contaminating the soil and water beneath Bangkal.

It was Arcilla who led the discovery of the leak in the 117-kilometer long pipeline.

Experts said benzene, a component of products from coal and petroleum, is found in gasoline and other fuels and used in the manufacture of plastics, detergents, pesticides, and other chemicals. They added exposure to high levels of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness, and death.

Binay also urged members of the Liga ng mga Barangay to make a recommendation to the City Council to pass an ordinance imposing a citywide ban on the sale of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic materials beginning 2017.

“We want a safe, injury-free celebration as we usher in the New Year. I urge Makatizens to do away with dangerous noisemakers and opt for safer alternatives, such as horns and trumpets, especially for young children,” she said.

The mayor also called on all barangay captains to strictly enforce a 1994 ordinance prohibiting the sale of any kind of firecracker to minors aged 15 years old and below throughout Makati.

“While a policy on the citywide ban on the sale of firecrackers is being drawn up, our barangay leaders should see to it that sari-sari stores and other business establishments in their respective areas of jurisdiction are strictly complying with the existing ordinance banning the sale of firecrackers to minors,” Binay said.

She warned store owners that if they are caught violating the ordinance, they will not just be fined but also face permanent closure. Negligent barangay officials will also be meted the appropriate sanctions, she added. With Vito Barcelo and Joel E. Zurbano


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