Issue of December 31, 2017
     
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2017
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Stay safe and happy on the New Year

The Department of Health launched an ambitious target of having a zero casualty during the celebration of the New Year. It aims to prevent any death or injuries that normally occur due to the high volume of firecrackers that are lit and exploded during the event. It is confident that this year, it will achieve its goal.

Well, the DOH has every reason to be optimistic about the chances of having a zero casualty. For one, President Rodrigo Duterte already issued a proclamation prohibiting the use of dangerous firecrackers. In it, there is a stringent penalty of imprisonment and/or a fine against those caught manufacturing and selling pyrotechnics that are categorized as bombs. Hence, we no longer see in the market such items as “five star,” bin laden,” “goodbye Philippines,” “super lolo” and similar products. Exempted from the coverage are light based firecrackers such as “roman candle,” “kwitis,” and other of similar nature. Likewise, the discharge of firecrackers under the auspices of local government units and with the supervision of experts is exempted.

In conjunction with the foregoing, teachers from different schools have undertaken a comprehensive campaign to impart on their students the dangers of using gunpowder based materials to celebrate the New Year. They urge them to use instead less polluting and safer methods to create noise such as drums, bells, “torotots,” and sirens. These teachers are aware that they have to do it on a “door-to-door basis” because past strategies like pasting posters in conspicuous places depicting maimed and burned hands and skin proved ineffective. This year, the approach is more personal. In this manner, no one will be exposed to the danger that was a common sight in every past New Year.

In some instances, there are cities and municipalities that banned the sale or use of firecrackers within its territorial jurisdiction, among which is Baguio City. Last year, the mayor prohibited the sale of firecrackers. It proved to be effective as the number of those injured noticeably decreased.

In Bocaue, Bulacan, the so-called country’s firecracker capital because it is where most pyrotechnics are manufactured, there is a conspicuous decrease in the production. The stores where these explosives are displayed are exhibiting less than what they did in the previous years. It is a sign that people are slowly embracing the idea that it is better to be “safe with worry rather than to be dead and sorry,” during the eve of the New Year.

Of course, there are those who complain about the ban on firecrackers. They say that it is “kill-joy” and anti-tradition. These are the men and women who derive satisfaction in seeing to it that the night is fully lit and noisy with sounds and colors coming from firecrackers. We, too, want the bright night and the loud noise to drive away the “evil spirits” and exorcise the demons of the past year. Yet, it is time to realize that there are better, safer and more cautious alternatives in achieving these. With modern technology, the desired lights and the level of noise, without necessarily exposing ourselves to the dangers of explosion and pollution, can be achieved with the same satisfaction by simply playing our loudspeakers to full volume in order to attain the desired decibel.

Rather than complaining against what the DOH and our local government units are doing to eradicate firecrackers and other pyrotechnic materials, we should welcome it. It is about time we mature and realize that the essence of the New Year is not the sounds or the lights from the firecrackers we buy and blast, but the opportunity that the holiday brings to us to bond with our family and friends. The best way to achieve this is to the celebrate this traditional event safely in the company of our loved ones.

Happy New Year!

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