MANILA - With a planned executive order (EO) replicating Davao City’s firecracker ban in limbo, the Department of Health (DOH) is resorting to an information campaign to convince the public to shun firecrackers, and patronize public fireworks displays instead.
Health Secretary Paulyn Rosell-Ubial said Tuesday that the EO can no longer be released this year, as businesses have already readied their wares in preparation for the seasonal rush.
Issuing the ban now would do more harm than good, she said.
"We submitted the proposal last November, medyo late na, medyo nag-prepare na iyong industries [para sa Pasko at Bagong Taon]. Delikado rin kung ang mga fireworks ngayon ay ma-store, maimbak and then hindi magamit. So it's really balancing the total picture," she said.
(We submitted the proposal last November, a little late, because the industries already prepared for the Christmas and New Year rush. It can be dangerous if the fireworks are put into storage and remain unused. It’s really balancing the total picture.)
In the meantime, the DOH is asking local governments to hold fireworks displays in public areas, and issue ordinances to ban retail selling of firecrackers at the local level.
Thus their slogan this year, "Iwas Paputok, Fireworks Display Patok (Avoid fireworks, patronize fireworks displays)."
"Lahat naman ng LGU ay supportive. It's just a matter of how the people in the community [will act]. Iyon pa rin naman ang ating challenge is really yung individual, paano tutugon sa panawagan ng ating tanggapan ng kagawaran ng kalusugan," said Dr. Ariel Valencia, director of the DOH’s National Capital Region office.
(All LGUs are supportive. It’s just a matter of how the people in the community will act. The challenge is really getting individuals to heed the call of the health department.)
The DOH will also raise the alert level in its 17 hospitals to "code white" starting midnight on Wednesday until January 5, 2017. The code prevents doctors and medical staff from taking leaves, and will ensure that government hospitals are ready to attend to firecracker-related injuries.
The agency's health management bureau is also being prepped to help hospitals with their emergency response.
Firecracker-related injuries are preventable, Ubial said, and every injury that can be avoided can help the government save money.
The estimated cost of treating and rehabilitating disabilities caused by mishandling of firecrackers reaches P500-million per year, Ubial said during an inspection of government-run Las Piñas District General Hospital and Satellite Ward Tuesday morning.
According to data from the DOH, an average of five Filipinos die each year from firecracker-related injuries.
(Dec 21 to Jan 6)
Nearly half of the victims were children, while almost a quarter of the total number were under the influence of alcohol when they handled firecrackers.
The health department hopes its efforts will help bring down the number of firecracker-related injuries every year throughout the country.