Dalawang tulog na lang, New Year na!
Have you prepared your list of resolutions? How about the 13 kinds of round and sweet fruits, and ang pao (Chinese red envelope with money and/or rice inside) to welcome 2014?
A new year gives us renewed hope and expectations for a better life. It has become a tradition to draw up resolutions and leave behind the bad habits of the past to the passing year. At times though, we tend to forget about these resolutions just a few weeks into the new year, and go back to the old ways.
Many still believe that firecracker explosions could wake up and drive away evil spirits at home and in ourselves. Others go through certain rituals like having 13 kinds of “lucky” fruits on the table before midnight strikes on January 1, believing this signifies abundance in the year ahead.
But according to Jaro, Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo: “Evils are not driven away by firecrackers. One effective way to drive away evil is by prayer, then good works, obeying the commandments of God, and of course confession. In serious cases, there is exorcism.”
Every year, the Department of Health (DoH) has been spending for injury-free celebration of Christmas and New Year. Every year, scores get hurt in firecracker-related incidents despite the enactment of a law regulating the sale and use of firecrackers.
The year ending has been turbulent for most, especially those from the Visayas who bore the heaviest brunt of Super Typhoon Yolanda’s fury almost two months ago. But I think that no amount of firecracker explosion can make our life better.
In my neighborhood in Quezon City, I noticed a remarkable change in the observance of Christmas Eve. Very few had firecrackers and fireworks. I hope it will be the same for media noche on Tuesday evening.
Perhaps, that’s their way of bracing for increases in utility service rates that have domino-like effect in the prices of basic necessities. Despite the hard times, we manage to roll with the punches.
Sadly, those injured in firecracker-related incidents come from the lower-income families. According to DoH, the number of injured in firecracker-related incidents this holiday season has gone up to 193 as of 6 a.m. on Sunday. The DoH also recorded five people hit by stray bullets.
The DoH data already showed higher injuries this year, compared to last year’s 175, and three people hit by stray bullets.
A huge percentage of the reported injuries—more than 60 percent—were caused by piccolo, a prohibited firecracker but is still sold behind the back of authorities.
In view of the still alarming number of injuries, perhaps it is about time to completely ban the production, sale, distribution, and use of firecrackers, following the example of Davao City.
According to reports, injuries from firecracker-related incidents in Davao City had dropped drastically to less than five since the firecracker ban was enforced 12 years ago.
Muntinlupa City is following suit, with Mayor Jaime Fresnedi recently signing Executive Order 15, imposing the ban on the display, sale, use, and distribution of firecrackers throughout the long holidays.
The city’s health office recorded one death and 18 injured persons due to mishandling of firecrackers.
Instead of using firecrackers, Davao City and Muntinlupa local executives are heeding the DoH appeal to the public to just blow horns or “torotot” to create noise in welcoming the new year.
Under very exceptional cases, the use of pyrotechnics in nonresidential areas is allowed in these areas with prior clearance from the city fire marshal and the police.
A licensed and authorized technician is required to directly supervise the fireworks display along with ample fire protection and first aid equipment.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago also subscribes to the firecracker ban and regulation in the use of pyrotechnics or fireworks by prohibiting it in residential areas.
Defensor filed in 2007 Senate Bill 1876, or the proposed “Firecracker Ban in Residential Areas Act,” seeking to prohibit firecrackers in residential areas.
Some fire incidents are caused by fireworks or firecrackers thrown or that have fallen in residential houses made of light materials.
“My bill provides a solution to reduce the number of firecracker-related injuries while minimizing the burden on parents to watch over their children against the use of firecrackers,” the senator said, noting that most victims of firecracker-related injuries were children.
Under Santiago’s bill, the local government is mandated to designate a common firecracker use area, which should be located in a nonresidential zone. It provides for stiff penalties for violators of the provisions, including a fine of up to P50,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.
It is about time to review implementation of Republic Act 7183, regulating the sale, production, distribution, and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnics devices. A brief visit to firecracker factories and retail stores won’t ensure that prohibited firecrackers are not being sold before and after authorities leave the place.
We have had enough of noises from politicians and law enforcers. We don’t need the loud bang of firecrackers to celebrate Christmas and welcome the new year. It is time for concrete, meaningful actions. Happy New Year!