Group supports DOH’s Early Campaign vs Firecrackers for Public Health and Safety

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog has thrown its support behind the early campaign of the Department of Health (DOH) to deter the public from blasting firecrackers to welcome the New Year.

In a letter faxed to Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona, the EcoWaste Coalition backed the DOH’s goal of curbing firecracker-linked injuries “by strictly enforcing the ban on the sale, manufacture, purchase, and use of all firecrackers/fireworks.”

“We are keen to collaborate with the DOH in achieving our shared purpose of minimizing, if not eliminating, the risks and hazards posed by firecrackers to life, limb and property, and to the ecosystems as a whole,” wrote Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

The environmental network has been conducting its “Iwas PapuToxic” drive since 2006, complementing the DOH’s initiative with creative school- and church-based activities.

Through their letter, the EcoWaste Coalition drew Sec. Ona’s attention to some ideas on how to broaden and strengthen the campaign for a safe and healthy welcome to 2011, including.

1.Giving an environmental slant to the campaign, incorporating the need to shun firecrackers in order to reduce harmful smoke, litter and noise that can aggravate and endanger the health of humans and animals, too.

2. Issuing a health advisory on noise pollution from the blasting of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

3. Seeking the strict enforcement of the ban on imported firecrackers and fireworks under Section 6 of Republic Act 7183 (“An Act Regulating the Sale, Manufacture, Distribution and Use of Firecracker and Other Pyrotechnic Devices”), which categorically says that: “The importation of finished firecrackers and fireworks shall be prohibited.”

4. Publishing an updated “black list” of banned firecrackers to include the atomic big triangulo and super lolo (as per RA 7183), piccolo, kwitis, luces, five star, pla-pla (the top five injury-causing firecrackers in 2009 according to the DOH), watusi (a poison commonly ingested by children), PVC bazooka, cannons or guns (as ordered by the Philippine National Police) and other firecrackers that the authorities had previously banned.

5. Promoting the declaration of church, school, hospital, zoo and public market areas as “silence zone” where the explosion of firecrackers will be strictly forbidden.

The EcoWaste Coalition also urged the DOH to highlight the success of Davao City and other local government units in reducing firecracker injuries and deaths as well as environmental pollution by enforcing a ban in their areas of jurisdiction.

For an expanded campaign, the group urged the DOH to mobilize participants from the public and private sectors, including the civil society, for a multi-stakeholders’ drive against firecrackers.

In addition, the EcoWaste Coalition proposed an intensified public information campaign involving movie and entertainment personalities, citing the power of celebrities in shaping public opinion.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s “Iwas-PapuToxic” events held every December before the Christmas break had attracted thousands of young students from Krus na Ligas Elementary School, QC (2006), Esteban Abada Elementary School, QC (2007), Claret School (2008) and the Marcelo H. del Pilar Elementary School, QC (2009).

The group has also partnered with the Miss Earth Foundation, Ministry of Ecology of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish in Malate and with animal rights groups such as the Philippine Animal Welfare Society in organizing creative events to sway the public to drop firecrackers in favor of safe and emission-free noise makers.