February 7, 2023

Concerned agencies in the Cordillera led by the Office of the Civil Defense and Department of Health are on the alert for any eventuality to maintain public safety and its zero-casualty goal this Christmas towards the New Year.
DOH-Cordillera Director Rio Magpantay said while injuries resulting from the sale and use of firecrackers in the region have been decreasing in the past five years, they aim to reduce it further and achieve zero casualties for 2022.
A total of 66 firecracker-related injuries were recorded from 2017 to 2021, the highest being in 2019 with 22 cases. There were 18 cases in 2017, 13 in 2018, four in 2020, and nine in 2021.
Sixty-six of the cases were firecracker-related injuries, one due to stray bullet, and one due to firecracker ingestion.
Most of the cases were from Abra with 24 or 36 percent, followed by Benguet with nine or 14 percent; Baguio City and Kalinga, each with eight cases or 12 percent; Apayao and Mountain Province with six cases each or nine percent, and Ifugao with five cases or eight percent.
The firecracker injuries affected all age groups and most victims were male.
Magpantay said most of the injuries were due to the use of banned firecrackers, with 34 cases, and 31 cases involved allowed firecrackers. Most common firecrackers used from 2017 to 2021 were kwitis, boga, and piccolo, the latter two being banned firecrackers.
The 64 injuries were mostly minor cases or did not require amputation but in 2019, there were two cases of amputation of a finger, one each from Mountain Province and Kalinga who were injured while lighting a firecracker.
“The cases are low, but we will still reduce it or achieve zero injuries. Kaya natin ang zero injuries kung kakayanin natin,” Magpantay said as he promoted the DOH’s holiday campaign, “Ligtas Christmas sa Healthy Pilipinas, magdiwang nang kumpleto at ligtas.”
At the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, surveillance of firecracker-related injuries started on Dec. 21 and is now monitoring incidents 24/7.
Marlon Castro of the BGHMC said medical staff and facilities at the BGHMC emergency room have already been pre-positioned.
The OCD-Cordillera, which chairs the Cordillera Regional Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council, is implementing the regional disaster response plan for human-induced hazards, through consequence management of incidents such as fire, firecracker-related incidents, including high-density gatherings such as the simbang gabi starting Dec. 16.
Operations Section chief Frankie Cortez said the OCD-Cordillera is on blue alert status, which means 50 to 75 percent of resources of local DRRMCs have been activated.
“All response clusters are on standby for possible augmentation of critical disaster events that may happen. We are prioritizing the safety of the constituents to achieve our goal for this year of zero casualties,” Cortez said during a media briefing on Dec. 20.
He said local government units have been advised to conduct their respective pre-disaster risk assessment meetings to ensure their localities are prepared for the holiday season.
“We are following our response framework, which is national government-enabled, local government unit-led and people-centered. We need to work together as this is not only the role of national government agencies, but most of the tasks are within the LGUs since they are on the frontline, the ones implementing ordinances, particularly on firecrackers and fireworks and designate areas for fireworks displays,” Cortez said.
He added they are monitoring not only human-induced hazards but also natural calamities, since there is an existing tail-end of a frontal system in extreme northern Luzon affecting Apayao and northeast monsoon bringing rains in Apayao, Kalinga, and Abra.
Col. Vicente Davey Limmong, chief of Regional Operations Division of Police Regional Office Cordillera, said the police have started their operation plan to maintain safety and security starting Dec. 16 and have deployed 667 personnel in points of convergence especially in churches.
To achieve zero firecracker-related injuries, Limmong advised residents not to use firecrackers as much as possible but instead join organized fireworks displays handled by trained personnel, in areas designated by LGUs.
The police also recommended using alternative ways of making nose to welcome the new year by using gongs and horns for children.
Parents are also advised to look after their children particularly after the celebration where they may pick up unexploded firecrackers which could also be dangerous. – Hanna C. Lacsamana