While welcoming the reduced number of firecracker-related injuries from the recent New Year’s revelry as reported by the Department of Health (DOH), various environmental leaders expressed support for a total ban in the hope of realizing zero injury, zero emission and zero waste New Year’s celebrations in the near future.
The annual rites of exploding firecrackers and fireworks to cast away bad fortunes and usher in the New Year has gone awry and very much out of control, injuring over 11,000 people, mostly kids, since 2000, discharging unaccounted volumes of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere, generating tons of hazardous garbage and harming defenseless animals, they lamented.
“The massive ignition of legal and illegal pyrotechnics to welcome the New Year goes against the constitutional policy of safeguarding human health and the ecosystems and flouts the spirit and intent of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, as well as the Animal Welfare Act. Without a shred of doubt, this injurious and wasteful tradition is at odds with the state vision of ‘health for all’ and a ‘Green Philippines’ amid the global climate crisis,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
While admitting that banning firecrackers and fireworks altogether will be an uphill struggle requiring rigorous education and political will at all levels, the EcoWaste Coalition took the occasion to recognize the DOH, particularly Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, for taking up the cudgels on behalf of vulnerable sectors, especially the children.
“Kudos to Asec. Tayag for his persistent campaigning.An authentic champion for public health, he dances‘Gangnam Style’ and makes himself publicly available not to court for votes, but to ensure children’s health and safety during the festivities,” said Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
Asec. Tayag earlier texted the group, saying “Salamat sa EcoWaste Coalition na seryoso sa adbokasiya at katuwang namin sa kampanya for public safety.” (Thanks to the EcoWaste Coalition that is serious in its advocacy and our partner in the campaign for public safety.)
Tessa Oliva of Miriam PEACE based at Miriam College’s Environmental Studies Institute said that: “We are for a total ban on firecrackers and fireworks since it is for the common good. Blasting pyrotechnic devices is against the rights of everyone, including pets, to a healthful environment. We cannot continue with such an extremely polluting practice at this critical stage of global warming that is already bringing devastating effects to our country and elsewhere.”
While recognizing President Aquino’s directive for stricter enforcement of laws, Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Coordinator, Philippine Earth Justice Center, said that “a lot more educational campaigns are needed to change behaviors and age-old practices that are so harmful to our health and our planet,” adding that mothers should “include firecrackers as among the toxic products that have no place in our homes and communities.”
For his part, Rene Pineda, President of the Partnership for Clean Air and member of the Executive Committee of the National Capital Region Airshed Governing Board, said that “the contemplated selective ban that is hinged on the decreased number of reported injuries and fatalities is an indictment of government’s usual over-politicking on a public health issue that mandates it to act decisively to address immediately.”
Pineda pointed out that “our Constitution mandates government to act and stop anything that endangers human lives. It cannot play with its primary duty like Russian Roulette,” he said.