Encourage factories to make only safe firecrackers | Inquirer Opinion
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Encourage factories to make only safe firecrackers

/ 11:40 PM December 11, 2011

It is again that time of the year when policemen swoop down on stores selling firecrackers. It is to prevent people from buying the firecrackers and hurting themselves before and during New Year’s Eve. But strangely and mysteriously, these firecrackers end up in the market and are bought on the sly by foolish revelers.

Why, what’s happening? How did these firecrackers get to the market? Ask the policemen who seized them and they would claim they destroyed them. And when they destroyed the firecrackers, nothing was left. So there is no evidence that they were really destroyed. Maybe some ashes, but they could be those of any trash.

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But we take the policemen’s word for it. After all, it is dangerous to store firecrackers in any place. It is like keeping a time bomb. One careless spark and the whole shebang can explode. That is why, from time to time, and especially at this time of the year, a house or a warehouse where firecrackers are stored to be sold later, explodes and goes up in flames.

But what are these rumors that the policemen themselves sell the firecrackers in the black market? Why are there so many firecrackers exploding come New Year’s Eve despite the raids? Where do the firecrackers come from?

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The answer of our law enforcers is that they must have been those that have escaped the raids. And again, we have to take their word for it because there is no proof that they really sold those firecrackers in the black market.

Which leads us to the next question: Why do they make the raids after the firecrackers are finished and are already being sold? Wouldn’t it be better if they raid the factories and seize the illegal firecrackers while they are still being manufactured? That way, no firecrackers will reach the market.

What I’m driving at is that raiding the stores and not the factories is an exercise in futility. The factories will just make more of the same to replace those that were confiscated.

The key to stopping the massacre that takes place every New Year’s Eve is the local government units. They are the ones on the scene and can monitor the factories constantly. Infrequent visits are not enough. When the inspectors leave, the factories will just resume making the banned firecrackers—because there is a big demand for them in the Philippines as New Year approaches.

To Filipinos, New Year’s Eve is not New Year’s Eve without fireworks. It is not the same without the noise. And banging pots and pans does not create the same noise that firecrackers make. There must be bangs, the more the merrier. And the bigger the bang the better. After all, it happens only once a year.

But you need only one carelessly lit firecracker to lose a finger, a hand, a foot, an eye, or even your life. Then the merrymaking turns into a tragedy.

And this happens not only occasionally. It becomes an epidemic on New Year’s Eve. Hospitals call their full medical staff to be on duty on New Year’s Eve and after, as casualties are taken to the hospitals as if there is a battle going on. In fact, urban centers really look like a battlefield with thick smoke-like fog, and the smell of gunpowder in the air and the detritus of New Year’s Eve merrymaking litter the ground.

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But after the casualties are counted and the dead are buried and public officials get tired wringing their hands and issuing public statements to institute reforms to stop the yearly mayhem, nothing is done. Everything is forgotten like a bad dream until the same mayhem is repeated at the end of the year.

The casualty count will not diminish unless the factories making the miniature bombs they call firecrackers stop, or are forced to stop making them. There is a sort of arms race among the firecracker factories, with each one trying to make more powerful firecrackers than the ones the other firecracker factories are producing. There is the belief that the bigger the bang the more it sells.

There is now a firecracker as big as a bowling ball that can flatten a small house, not to say with the people in it. You don’t need a terrorist bomb to massacre innocent bystanders; you just have to buy one of these bowling ball-sized firecrackers.

And you can buy it—even if it is illegal—if you have the money and the right connections.

And there’s the rub. All these powerful firecrackers that can maim and kill are illegal, but the firecracker factories keep making them despite the raids. Because people buy firecrackers.

Warning the people against these mini-bombs in press releases and publishing pictures of mangled limbs after New Year’s Eve do not have any effect on foolish Filipinos who believe they must explode firecrackers, otherwise New Year’s Eve won’t be complete.

So some local government units have taken to having fireworks displays in town plazas and other public places so people can go there and watch the fireworks—and save lots of money at the same time. All those fireworks going up in smoke cost hundreds of millions of pesos that could have bought food, clothes and a lot of other things instead. But Filipinos will gladly forego food and clothes to be able to buy firecrackers.

What I’m driving at is that you cannot stop Filipinos from buying, and exploding—and, perhaps, losing a finger or two—firecrackers as long as they are available. So continue manufacturing firecrackers, but only the small cigarette-sized and safe ones that they make in China and Hong Kong. But our factories do not know how to make them.

So why not send groups to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to study how to make them? And also the beautifully packed fireworks displays that they export—and smuggle—to the Philippines? That way Filipinos can light firecrackers to their hearts’ content and still keep their limbs and lives.

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TAGS: Accidents, Firecrackers, Holiday, Law Enforcement, New Year, Police, Public Safety
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