Nearly 200 injured despite Philippine fireworks order

IMPROVEMENT::Duterte’s order did have an effect, with injuries down 77 percent compared with the average over the past five years, but officials are considering a total ban

AFP, MANILA

Tue, Jan 02, 2018 - Page 4

Nearly 200 people were injured during traditionally raucous New Year celebrations in the Philippines, despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s order limiting the use of firecrackers, Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque said yesterday.

The order signed in June last year restricted the noisy explosives to community fireworks displays in an attempt to curb the bloody merrymaking that leaves scores of people dead or injured each year.

The Philippines is mainly Catholic, but the violent New Year festivities draw on ancient superstitions and Chinese traditions, with people firing guns and setting off powerful fireworks in the belief the bangs will drive away bad spirits.

Duque said that 191 people were hurt during this year’s revelry — down 77 percent compared with the average over the past five years — but added that his department might recommend a total firecracker ban to ensure zero casualties.

“We are relatively pleased — relative because there are still injuries, but pleased because of the substantial reduction in fireworks-related injuries,” Duque told reporters as he thanked Duterte for issuing the order.

Asked how to further minimize injuries, Duque said: “I think the end goal really is to ban fireworks completely.”

Duterte’s June order stated that firecrackers may only be used in areas approved by local governments and under the supervision of trained and licensed people.

Duque said most of this year’s injuries occurred on the streets of Manila, with illegal matchstick-sized “piccolo” firecrackers remaining the top cause.

Among those hurt was an 11-month-old baby, he added.

Duterte had in 2016 said that firecracker-related injuries were a “very serious public health issue,” adding that he was concerned about children, who make up most of the victims.

As Davao mayor, he in 2002 signed an ordinance that banned the manufacture, sale, distribution, possession and use of firecrackers in the city.

Duterte’s spokesman yesterday said that the president might consider adopting a total firecracker ban nationwide.

“He might, but there may be a need to amend the law,” Harry Roque said.