Rains defused more Filipinos' itch to light firecrackers during the New Year's Eve revelry, resulting to a lesser number of firecracker-injured victims this year, the Department of Health (DOH) reported Thursday morning.
"The rainshowers over Metro Manila dampened the excitement of New Year's Eve revelers, thus resulting in lesser injuries reported by DOH," DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III announced at a press conference.
Duque said the rainshowers helped the government's campaign against firecrackers "by dampening festivities and frustrating those who light fireworks as a yearly tradition to welcome the New Year."
The health secretary also attributed the lower firecracker-injury statistics this year to the DOH's "scare tactics" by releasing ads and advisories about the dangers of lighting firecrackers.
Duque said that as of January 1 morning, only a total of 346 firework-related injuries have been recorded by the DOH's 50 centers. The number is 88 cases or 25 percent lower compared to last year's statistics and also 417 cases or 55 percent lower than the four-year average, he said.
The health secretary also said that only nine people were hit by stray bullet, which is five cases lower compared to 2007, and only two victims swallowed watusi.
He said majority of the injured victims lighted fireworks in Metro Manila.
Duque, meanwhile, said he had ordered all government hospitals to remain on "Code White" alert until January 5, the last day of counting firecracker-related injuries.
He said he wanted hospitals to expect more firecracker victims to check in because rains may stop and the firecracker lovers' spirits may re-spark.
Duque said that based on hospital and police reports, half of the total number of firecracker victims are "passive bystanders" and 38 percent of the victims were children.
The health secretary, meanwhile, urged local government units to "hose the streets" where firecrackers were lighted during the New Year's revelry to make sure that dud firecrackers won't be picked up by children who usually hunt for unexploded crackers on January 1.
"I urge our local government units to hose firework littered streets. Maglinis kaagad nang sa ganun ay walang mamumulot at sisindihan muli at magpapaputok," Duque said.
New Year's revelry peaceful, but not in Mindanao
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday lowered the alert status of all its units, except those in Mindanao provinces.
PNP chief Director-General Jesus Verzosa said the normal alert status took effect on Thursday noon.
"Most of our personnel have been on duty last Christmas and during the New Year's celebration. I have ordered the return to normal alert status to allow our personnel to spend more quality time with their families and loved ones," Verzosa said.
The police chief lauded all police units for "maintaining vigilance throughout the holiday season."
Verzosa said the New Year's revelry was generally peaceful.
Three hours before midnight Wednesday, an improvised bomb exploded at the oval plaza in General Santos City, injuring 20 civilians and two policemen.
Early Thursday, police defused a powerful bomb near a bus terminal in Barangay Guiwan, Zamboanga City.
Chief Inspector Diomarie Albarico, Zamboanga City police station 7 chief, said the "complete" bomb was composed of an 81mm mortar, blasting caps and a timing device.
Albarico said police ordnance operatives recovered the bomb from a plastic bag abandoned in a vacant lot, which is a few meters away from the Guiwan Bus depot, around 8 a.m.
The police officer said that before the bomb was discovered, the Guiwan Bus management received terror threats from an unknown group.
In Sulu, five children were hurt when a 40mm mortar dropped near the place where they were playing shortly before midnight in Patikul town.
Police said the victims identified as Harbi Habibi, 12; Nurfaisa Basari, 12; Aldina Ari, 14; Sabre Habibi, 14; and Jan-Jan Bara, 17, where playing when the mortar exploded near them.
Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, Sulu police chief, said investigators were still clueless were the mortar came from.
He said that according to witnesses, the mortar suddenly fell near the victims' location in Sitio Palar Road, Barangay Umangay minutes before the New Year came.