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Tougher laws on firecrackers, not incentives to LGUs, will curb firecracker-related injuries

Photo source: Manila Bulletin

Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian today scored the Department of Health (DOH) for transforming the campaign against firecrackers as a contest among local government units (LGUs) by giving incentives to LGUs that record no revelry-related injuries in welcoming the New Year.

Gatchalian was reacting to the statement of Health Secretary Janet Garin that the DOH was looking at giving monetary rewards to LGUs with zero casualties during the New Year’s merrymaking with the aim of pushing LGUs to scale up the campaign against the sale and use of firecrackers,

“The DOH proposal is not the solution. The health department is just wasting its money. Strict regulation is the solution,” said Gatchalian who was a three-term mayor of Valenzuela City before he won a seat for the city’s 1st Congressional District.

Gatchalian had earlier moved toughen rules on the sale and use of firecrackers by amending the current law regulating gunpowder-based products.

Gatchalian, a Philippine Red Cross governor, urged for the passage of House Bill No. 4434, to be known as the “Firecracker Regulation Act of 2014“, amid calls by the Department of Health to strictly enforce the law against the sale of piccolo, the leading cause of injuries linked to firecrackers.

“That there are still reported injuries due to firecrackers only show that we need to strengthen the current law on the sale and use of firecrackers. We need to amend the law to protect the children who are most vulnerable as they do not fully understand the dangers of firecrackers,” said Gatchalian, who is also a majority member of the House Committee on Trade and Industry.

Of the 860 firecracker-related injuries recorded nationwide last year, 32 percent were caused by piccolo, which is already banned by the government but are still being sold in the market, with children among the buyers.

Gatchalian said HB 4434 does not seek to dampen holiday cheer but rather, ensure a safe environment for Filipinos especially children who are most vulnerable to firecracker-related injuries by amending some provisions of Republic Act No. 7183.

“Every year, we endure from the pollutants caused by the use of firecrackers to welcome the New Year, we see news flashes of countless injuries, especially to the hapless children. Until when should we allow this cycle of perils to our health and environment?” Gatchalian asked in his bill’s explanatory note.

HB 4434 requires LGUs to designate a common area for firecracker use in their own locality to avoid fire and injuries as the use of such will not be allowed in densely populated residential areas.

If enacted into law, the bill will require fireworks dealers to submit the names and addresses of their affiliates to the Philippine National Police’s Firearms and Explosive Office (PNP-FEO) upon securing business permit. A maximum of P5,000 will be imposed as limit for a single purchase of any firecracker or pyrotechnic device, excluding those with permit from PNP-FEO.

HB 4434 will also prohibit selling fireworks to any person below 18 years old while requiring children who will use firecrackers to be under the strict supervision of their guardians.

Those who will fail to secure their dealer’s permit through legal means will be fined P100,000 to P500,000 or an imprisonment ranging from six months to three years. Dealers found guilty of selling fireworks to minors will be fined P100,000 and have their permit revoked.

Meanwhile, parents found guilty of goading firework purchase by their children will be fined P10,000. The measure is pending before House Committee on Public Order and Safety. (Monica Cantilero)