Regulate manufacture, not use, of fireworks | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Regulate manufacture, not use, of fireworks

/ 09:09 PM December 29, 2013

Happy New Year! I hope you still have all your fingers.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) night, the Philippines will again appear like a war zone. Mini bombs and fireworks bursting everywhere and smoke from the explosives will envelop the atmosphere like a fog. Hospital emergency rooms will be crowded as overworked doctors and nurses treat the wounded and the dying, as more victims are brought in every hour. Cries and moans of pain from both children and adults will fill the air. Most will have their fingers blasted by firecrackers; some will have bullet wounds from guns carelessly fired into the air and from guns intentionally aimed at people by inebriated gun crazies. Apart from a firecracker ban on New Year’s Eve, there should also be a ban on alcoholic drinks. Many people do not know how to hold their drink. Combine alcohol with guns and you get tragedy.


The surest way to have hands or fingers amputated is to have them blasted on New Year’s Eve. The overworked surgeons who can painstakingly put back severed limbs will not have the luxury to do that on New Year’s Eve because of so many patients whose lives and limbs have to be saved. In order to save a person’s life, a surgeon may amputate a badly-injured limb to save time.

As of this writing, two boys, one five years old and the other 14, already had hands and fingers amputated, according to the Department of Health. The number will surely rise in the runup to the New Year madness.


The DOH, the police and local government units are trying—vainly—to cut the number of casualties by restricting the sale and use of firecrackers. The Muntinlupa City government has imposed a total ban on firecracker display, sale, use and distribution. In Makati City, a fireworks ban is still in effect in three barangays because of an oil leak in a condominium building. Other cities have designated town plazas as sites for fireworks displays and invited people to watch instead of exploding their own firecrackers. The police have been raiding fireworks stalls in Bocaue, Bulacan, and confiscating the illegal ones. All in vain.

Instead of firecracker use diminishing, the DOH reported an 8-percent increase (from 2012) in the number of users. It also reported that fireworks-related injuries continued to increase as the New Year approaches. It recorded a total of 170 firecracker-related injuries as of 6 a.m. last Saturday, as against 167 in the same period last year.

I think the government is trying to reduce the number of victims of the annual mayhem the wrong way. The correct way is to reduce the production, instead of only the use, of powerful firecrackers.

As long as firecrackers are available, people will buy and explode them. It’s a longtime Filipino tradition to greet the New Year with noise, in the belief that noise would drive away the bad luck and bad spirits of the old year. Most Filipinos don’t believe that anymore, but they still want to explode firecrackers just for the fun of it.

Most adults know the danger, but most children don’t. So most of the victims are children, although some foolish adults also injure themselves.

I think that no matter how hard we try, we cannot totally stamp out the New Year tradition of exploding firecrackers. Other noisemakers like the torotot  are not exciting enough. The bigger the bang, the more exciting it is.

That’s why manufacturers are in a sort of arms race and producing the most powerful firecrackers. The latest craze is the “Napoles” and “Super Yolanda,” which are no longer just firecrackers but bombs, round as a bamboo pole and at least a foot long. They can blast your hand off, blind you, or even kill you.


But despite the danger, people buy them because they are available. And the manufacturers produce them because people buy them despite the high price.

Raiding factories and stores and confiscating the banned explosives—the police classify the Napoles, Yolanda, “Bin Laden,” and others like them as explosives, no longer just fireworks—won’t be enough. Once they are made, the manufacturers will try to sell them, clandestinely or not, because of their investment. For every bomb that the police manage to seize, probably 10 get through.

The thing to do is to control the production of firecrackers. So that factories will not lose their income, they should be allowed to continue making firecrackers, but only the small, harmless ones like the  trianggulo, not the “Five Star.” And much money can be had from fireworks that explode in the air and produce beautiful designs and colors.

The responsibility of supervising fireworks manufacture belongs to LGUs because the factories are in their territories. They are in the best position to regulate, inspect (frequently), and get the cooperation of the manufacturers.

However, because of some corrupt LGU officials, regulation is practically nonexistent in certain municipalities. Councilors and other LGU officials are reportedly owners of firecracker factories. And because of the “kumpadre” system, the well-connected manage to get permits and are not regulated.

We need new laws that increase the penalties for violators and include LGU officials in the criminal cases to be filed.

As for the crazies firing their guns into the air, the best witnesses are their neighbors. So, offer rewards for anyone who reports, even anonymously, a showoff firing his gun into the air and endangering the lives of other people. It goes without saying that the government should try its best to have the hundreds of thousands of loose firearms registered, perhaps by offering amnesty to their holders.

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TAGS: column, Firecrackers, manufacturing, neal h. cruz, Regulation
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