MANILA – Days after a presidential executive order banned the use of firecrackers, the Department of Health (DOH) reported a sharp — 68 percent — decline in the number of injuries in the end-2017 monitoring period heading into the New Year, and expressed hope that in future the goal of “zero casualty” can be met.
Presiding at a press conference after making the rounds of key government hospitals that usually account for bulk of the New Year casualties, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they counted 191 cases between December 21, 2017 until January 1, 2018.
In his view, Executive Order 28 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, limiting the use of strong firecrackers at home and encouraging people to go to designated community fireworks zones played a big role in the plunge of casualties this New Year.
Duque also cited the strict enforcement by the police, and thanked the media for their role in the quick and timely dissemination of comprehensive information on the 2017 iteration of the “Iwas Paputok” campaign.
“I think the end goal really is to ban the fireworks completely and I think eventually that should be the ultimate goal. That’s the ideal scenario that we all aspire for in DOH, zero casualty,” Duque said.
The victims this year were aged 11months up to 69 years, with a majority of male minors.
Piccolo was tagged as the culprit in the most number of cases, followed by kwitis, unknown firecrackers, fountain and boga.
For its part, the Philippine National Police conceded that while firecracker sales had gone down considerably, many illegal firecrackers proliferated, attributing this to smuggling.
“These are mostly smuggled and sold in the black market because these can’t be sold in regular outlets where they are strictly banned.
They are pulled out from storage towards the end of the New Year Eve countdown–and by that time, when they are reported to us, there are already victims,” P/Supt Johnny Capalos, assistant chief of the PNP’s public safety division, said, speaking partly in Filipino.
The PNP and DOH took a qualified view on whether or not to charge people who were injured because they were active users of illegal firecrackers.
Capalos said, “when investigating we need concrete evidence that the illegal firecracker was actually used. If there’s a witness and complainant, the better.”
Duque for his part said,”In the Christian value system, [we should understand that if you see someone blown up, or lost a finger or a hand— will you still have the heart to file a case against these illegal users?”
The DOH confirmed that it will shoulder the hospitalization costs of victims.
“PhilHealth will take care of the cost of his hospitalization, [and there will be no] balance billing.” For non-PhilHealh members, Duque said the DOH will still shoulder the cost through its medical assistance program.
The DOH will release its final report on fireworks-related injuries on Jan. 6.