Firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials have maimed thousands of Filipinos, especially children, due to firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials while celebrating the Christmas and New Year days. The use of firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials during the Yuletide season is an age-old tradition due to the belief that the explosive sounds from the pyrotechnic materials will help drive away the bad spirits that brought bad luck during the year and bring better luck for the new year.
The government has passed pertinent laws regulating the manufacture, sale and use of firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials but the demand for such materials persists which provides a market for unsafe explosive devices. Ironically, some people prefer to use illegal explosives compared to the regulated ones that pose a serious threat to their safety and even to life and limb.
Some local governments have tried efforts to ban the sale and use of firecrackers in their areas of jurisdiction over the past several years without success except in Davao. It is only Davao City that was successful in the implementation of total firecracker and pyrotechnic ban because of the strong political leadership of the city. For years now, Davao was able to register zero firecracker-related incidents which most local governments want to emulate. However, do these other local governments have the same political will to implement total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials? If success is to be attributed to political will, then surely the lack of strong political must be the factor that causes failure. Of course this is also reflected in the inability of the local police force to monitor the entry of illegally manufactured firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials in their areas of jurisdiction.
In Baguio City, the city’s leadership tried to ban the sale and use of firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials by not issuing the necessary business permits to those interested to sell the said hazardous materials. While the local government was successful in regulating the entry of firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials in the city for several years now, it was not able to strictly address the proliferation illegal firecrackers in the public market and in other places around the city. Why? Again, political will. Lack of political will among police officers to address the problem. It is disconcerting that some members of the local legislative body are still trying protect the interest of the few firecracker and pyrotechnic vendors. A proposed legislation was filed early this year imposing a total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials early this year with an attachment of over 30,000 signatures supporting the passage of the said legislation. However, the said proposal remains rotting in one of the committees of the local legislative body because of the interests of some local legislators who still want firecracker and pyrotechnic to be sold around the city. It would be interesting to check on these officials who had been elected to institute measures to protect the welfare of their constituency but are instead blocking the passage of such safety measures.
We commend the members of the local firecracker and pyrotechnic vendors group who have shifted to selling toys and other products. If these individuals could do so, it is possible then for all its members to do the shift. What is needed is for the local government to support the smooth transformation for this group through participatory assessment and planning in exploring alternative livelihoods especially for the small-time vendors.
For the local government, we urge the local legislative body to pass the necessary legislation imposing a total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials. It should respond to the clamor of the public for a peaceful celebration of the Yuletide season. It is a shame that with such a strong public petition, coupled with the initiative of vendors to shift to other goods, the legislative body is stalling action. Is it fence-sitting and just waiting for the national leadership to speak? The results of the initial implementation of the total ban on firecrackers has been successful but something concrete must be done to put an end to the recurring problem. What is needed is legislative action to support actions on the ground.
For the public, we know that all that noise during the Yuletide season is not our culture. We can make a difference by consciously refusing to buy such products. We ask those who have money to buy pyrotechnic products to donate to the victims of recent typhoons. There are many ways of merrymaking that do not endanger ourselves and others. Let us embrace ways that will ensure our safety because we owe our lives to our families.
For the local governments, please do not wait for the order of the President totally banning firecrackers nationwide. Be the protectors of the people and not be the ones to expose them to extreme danger by allowing the willful use of firecrackers and pyrotechnic materials for the Yuletide revelry.
We wish everyone a safe happy enjoyment of the holidays!