Health dept to shame LGUs with most number of firecracker-related injuries

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) has warned that it would disclose to the press on Jan. 5 the local government units (LGUs) with the highest number of injuries from firecrackers.

In a press briefing held at the DOH media relations unit in Tayuman, Sta. Cruz, Manila, Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said the move aims to show which LGUs are actually heeding their call for a safer celebration of the holidays.

“We hope the LGUs would heed our wake-up call,” Ubial said, noting the importance of the participation of every LGU in the success of the campaign towards zero injury, especially among children, during the New Year celebrations.

She said they came up with the “shame campaign” since there has been no major change in the number of injuries from firecrackers in the past five years, despite the intensive yearly campaigns.

“So, right now, I’m calling on all the LGUs, the local chief executives, please do your part in this campaign to prevent injuries among children and our people. Malaki na po ang nawawala or costs sa ating health care system (Our health care system has lost a lot) because of this useless cause of injuries,” she added.

Ubial further cited that in other countries, people do not risk life and limb by igniting firecrackers. Instead, she said, they regulate the lighting of firecrackers, which is only done by those who have been trained to handle them.

At the moment, the department is getting the active support of the LGUs, she said, adding that one of the earliest to express its commitment to the campaign was the LGU of Marikina City.

The health chief added that they are intensifying their coordination with LGUs since the proposed Executive Order (EO) on the regulated use of firecrackers and pyrotechnics will not be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte anytime soon.

The EO has not been signed because the President deemed it too late to impose it since the firecracker industry has already manufactured the fireworks. The manufacture of firecrackers usually starts middle of the year.

The EO encourages the regulated use and not the total ban of firecrackers, leaving the responsibility of lighting fireworks in the hands of experts who are capable of handling them in a community setting. It will also require the presence of first aiders to attend to those injured.

The health department expects the EO to take effect by September next year.

Last year, the DOH reported a total of 932 injuries nationwide from Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan. 5, 2016, 72 cases or 8 percent higher compared to 2014, which logged a total of 860 injuries.

Of the 932 reported injuries, 920 or 98.7 percent were due to fireworks; 10 (1.1. percent) were from stray bullets; and 2 (0.2 percent) were from firecracker ingestion. One recorded death was due to massive injuries from an exploding “Goodbye Philippines”.

A majority of the firecracker-related injuries though, came from the use of the “piccolo” with 385 or 42 percent of the total injuries.

Most fireworks-related injuries came from the National Capital Region with 523 (56 percent); followed by Western Visayas with 82 (9 percent); and the Ilocos region with 68 (7 percent).

Meanwhile, the DOH emphasized that it is strongly encouraging the use of safe merry-making instruments and alternative noise-makers, such as the “torotot”, car horns, or by playing loud music.

The announcement was made in cooperation with Bureau of Fire Protection (BOFP) officials and the non-governmental organization, EcoWaste Coalition, which both highlighted the dangers of lighting firecrackers.

According to BOFP OIC deputy chief, C/Supt. Bobby Baruelo, firecrackers can set houses made of light materials ablaze, while “kwitis” firecrackers could enter through windows and explode indoors.

The EcoWaste Coalition, through its representative Elsa de Veyra, a nurse, on the other hand, pointed out the bad effects of firecrackers not only on human health but on the environment and animals, as well. Leilani Junio/