Smuggled firecrackers from China a concern for PH pyrotechnics industry

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 31 2019 02:18 PM | Updated as of Dec 31 2019 07:16 PM

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MANILA—Dragon Fireworks, Southeast Asia's largest fireworks manufacturer, said on Tuesday that firecrackers are being smuggled into the country despite the government's campaign to ban them. 

The company said it shut down its firecrackers division last year as President Rodrigo Duterte eyed a total ban on firecrackers.

"We stopped out firecracker division because the President doesn't really like firecrackers," Dragon Fireworks CEO Jovenson Ong told ANC's "Early Edition."

But Ong added that firecrackers that cause injuries continue to be smuggled into the country. 

"I think smuggling in the Philippines is the perennial problem of manufacturers," he said, noting that defective firecrackers that cause injuries are usually smuggled products from China.

Duterte in January said he would totally disallow firecrackers in the country, but eventually allowed local government officials to decide if a ban would be enforced in their respective jurisdictions.

Failure to curb smuggling of firecrackers has dampened investor sentiment in the pyrotechnics sector and made some people wary of buying fireworks, Ong said.

"The legitimate industry is in a tight bind because every year, we are blamed for something, for a product that is competing with us," he said.

The company still manufactures pyrotechnics, but sales in 2019 were "slightly lower" due to "misconceptions" about a ban on fireworks, he said.

"A lot people have this misconception that they cannot use fireworks . . . They pretty much think that firecrackers means everything," he said.

While several groups have been lobbying for a fireworks-free new year celebration, Ong said it is still important to have pyrotechnics in revelries in the Philippines.

"Economically, there is a big, compelling reason for fireworks not to be banned," he said.

"Imagine if there are no fireworks being set off. You just encourage people to go abroad, spend money there where they think it is livelier.

"We just have to make sure that the fireworks that end up in the hands of the public are the safe ones."