Malate Children Say “Iwas Paputoxic,” Stage Pre-New Year “Ligtas Salubong” sans Firecrackers

As the rest of the country continued its Christmas celebration, a toxic watchdog and church-based groups today reminded the public, especially the children, to stay away from injurious and highly polluting firecrackers this season.

The event, dubbed “Ligtas Salubong 2011”, saw the EcoWaste Coalition partnering with the Care for the Earth Ministry and the Ministry of Children of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish in Malate, Manila to promote safe and climate-friendly alternatives to firecrackers.

After a lively show of substitute noisemakers created from used materials in front of the iconic place of worship, the youth participants paraded around the Malate Catholic Church and Remedios Circle areas brandishing a banner that said “Say No to Firecrackers: Opt for a Safe and Climate-Friendly Celebration of the New Year.” They also gave out leaflets listing alternatives to firecrackers.

“New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a festive and joyous occasion,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats). “Don’t spoil it by using hazardous firecrackers and other pyrotechnics which have already been proven to cause injuries and emit toxins into the environment.”

“Let’s shun these toxic devices and add ‘concern for other people, the animals and the environment’ to the list of resolutions for us to keep from this year onward,” added Lucero.

Cristy Pangilinan, representative of the Care for the Earth Ministry, agrees. “We join the EcoWaste Coalition in pushing for a safe welcome of the New Year for the sake of our young children who are most likely to be injured by mishandled or defective firecrackers. It’s our duty as parents to protect our children from these threats, not expose them to further danger.”

Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, supported the timely initiative of the laity to persuade the public to quit blasting firecrackers to welcome the New Year.

“There’s a smarter way of heralding 2011 than wasting hard-earned money in firecrackers that cause bodily harm and massive pollution. For a change, please dump firecrackers this time around and opt for ‘torotot’ and other gentler instruments of merrymaking. Let’s not jeopardize the health and safety of our children, families and communities with firecrackers. Together we can turn the bloody and dirty revelry into a real celebration of life and hope,” stated Bishop Iñiguez.

Citing information provided by the Department of Health, the coalition said these devices generate many pollutants, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur compounds, particulate matter, metal oxides and organic compounds, when burned. These pose health risks to infants and young children and those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

“Why would we want to continue using these highly toxic devices when there are so many alternatives we can use?” asked the groups.

The EcoWaste Coalition has identified 13 alternative noisemakers that citizens could use instead of firecrackers, fireworks and similar devices that pollute the environment or cause injuries and fires. These include:

1. Blow colorful toy trumpets (torotot).
2. Shake maracas created out of used tin cans.
3. Rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle crowns (tansan).
4. Shake box or plastic containers filled with coins, pebbles or seeds.
5. Sound pot lids (takip ng kaldero) cymbals.
6. Clank the washbasin (batya or palanggana) with a ladle or stick.
7. Knock empty coconut shells.
8. Play the guitar or any available musical instruments.
9. Play Karaoke songs or your favorite fast and bouncy music.
10. Honk the bicyle or car horns (busina).
11. Create whistling sound or get a whistle and blow it.
12. Clap your hands and stump your feet.
13. Sing, dance and shout “Happy New Year.”

“It is our hope that this New Year’s Eve be the start of many more non-toxic and safe celebrations to come,” the groups said.