Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Friday the number of firecracker-related injuries this year was higher–86 percent—than the record in 2020, but lower than the five-year average at 71 cases during the comparative period.
Duque said, with 26 firecracker-related injuries reported as of Thursday, it was still around 60 percent to 70 percent lower compared to the five-year average.
“We are slightly higher compared to last year but still lower by 60 percent to 70 percent to the five-year average],” he said in an interview on Dobol B TV.
The 26 firecracker-related injuries involved “boga,” five star, piccolo, triangle, whistle bomb, baby rocket, kwitis, and other unlabeled or imported firecrackers.
These victims sustained hand, head, eye, neck, chest, thigh, and foot injuries, according to the DOH.
The incidents were reported from Western Visayas, Ilocos, Bangsamoro, National Capital Region, Cagayan, Central Luzon, Central Visayas, Bicol, and Soccsksargen.
Duque said the increase in firecracker-related injuries might be connected with the country being under Alert Level 2, the second lowest in the COVID-19 alert level system.
“The public might assume that it is now okay to be relaxed, complacent, and neglectful. That’s wrong,” he said.
In related developments, the Philippine National Police said it was closely coordinating with barangay officials and other village peacekeepers following the pronouncement of the Department of the Interior and Local Government giving village workers the authority to apprehend firecracker ban violators for the New Year revelry.
“The Barangay and local PNP units’ partnership will ensure that there is proper enforcement of local Executive Orders and a strong system of shared responsibility. Their presence can expand our monitoring deployment. They serve as our lookout in our blind-spot areas,” said PNP chief, Gen. Dionardo Carlos, in a statement.
Carlos said the PNP adheres to the statement of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año that it is the PNP’s responsibility to enforce policies regulating the manufacture and use of firecrackers through the conduct of inspections, confiscation, and destruction of prohibited firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.
Executive Order 28, signed by Duterte in 2017, provides for the regulation and control on the use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices, and the use of regulated firecrackers that shall be confined to community fireworks displays.
The DILG chief said it was the responsibility of the PNP and the LGUs to enforce national and local policies regulating the manufacture and use of firecrackers through the conduct of inspections, and confiscation and destruction of prohibited firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.
Violations include a fine of P20,000 to P30,000, imprisonment of six months to one year, cancellation of license and business permit, and
confiscation of inventory stocks.
Under Memorandum Order 31 issued by Duterte in 2019, the PNP, in coordination with local government units (LGUs), the Bureau of Fire
Protection and other concerned agencies, is tasked to conduct inspections to ensure that manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and
users of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices are complying with safety guidelines.
Some LGUs have disclosed their intention to break away from the tradition and instead encouraged residents to use safe alternatives in
the traditional celebration of the New Year.
Local orders have formalized and laid down the provisions, including the penalties for violators.
Recently, the PNP released a list of prohibited firecrackers/pyrotechnic devices that the public cannot use anywhere within or outside firecracker zones or designated community fireworks display areas identified by LGUs in preparation for the New Year
The firecrackers regulated for sale and use are baby rockets, bawang, el diablo, Judas’ belt, paper caps, pulling of strings, skyrocket,
small triangulo, and other types that are not oversized, overweight, and imported.
On the other hand, pyrotechnic devices or “pailaw” allowed to be sold and used are the butterfly, fountain, jumbo regular and special,
luces, Mabuhay, Roman candle, sparklers, trompillo, and whistle device.
At the same time, with hospitals under Code White Alert since December 20, the Department of Health has made all necessary preparations to prevent and treat fireworks-related injuries.
On Friday, Duque and other DOH officials conducted hospital rounds at Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center and Tondo Medical Center to monitor and ensure preparedness of hospitals in providing emergency medical services for fireworks-related injuries while being mindful of COVID-19 emergency and urgent care.
“We are preparing not just in welcoming 2022, but also in giving our Kababayan a safe and sans-souci New Year. DOH always hopes that
celebrations like this will not create untoward accidents. That is why we are relentlessly reminding everyone of safer alternatives to
welcoming the New Year through our Iwas Paputok campaign especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, and in ensuring that our hospitals are prepared for fireworks-related injuries,” said Duque.
Injuries related to fireworks have been decreasing, from 677 in 2016 to 122 reported cases in 2020. As of December 31 based on the 2021
surveillance, there are a total of 30 fireworks-related injuries reported, which were 76 percent higher compared to 2020 with 17 cases,
but 66 percent lower than the five-year average of 89 cases during the same time period, the DOH said.
Nine (35 percent) cases occurred in Region 6. There was no fireworks ingestion, stray bullet injury, or death reported this year.
Twenty-five (83 percent) cases were due to illegal fireworks with Boga as the highest number of cases with nine (30 percent).
As part of the “Ligtas Christmas para sa Health Pilipinas” campaign, the DOH has released promotional posters in all its social media
platforms aiming to prevent fireworks-related injuries during the holidays and providing alternatives to fireworks.
By avoiding the use of fireworks and the eventuality of injuries, Filipino families can celebrate holidays and hold activities without
spending on healthcare due to accidents and most especially avoiding the emotional capital on undesirable effects of accidents.
Elsewhere in the metropolis, the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center is ready to treat firecrackers-related injuries during the new
year celebrations, the hospital chief said on Friday.
GABMMC chief Dr. Ted Martin, in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, said they prepared their operating room and equipment before Christmas.
Martin echoed the call of the Department of Health to use alternatives to firecrackers in celebrating the new year.
Martin added injured patients due to firecracker incidents cannot be immediately brought to the emergency room because of the pandemic.