Firecrackers have long been a regular fixture in how Filipinos welcome the New Year, as evidenced by this crackling video. But in the last decade or so, the practice of using pyrotechnics to usher in a fresh calendar year has seen a dramatic decline, as local governments have increasingly discouraged the public from doing so by creating ordinances that explicitly prohibit the act of selling, buying and using firecrackers.
The reasons cited for banning fireworks include safety and environmentalism. Every year, victims die from stray bullets or are seriously injured by firecrackers. And then of course, there's the matter of the whole country having to deal with massive air pollution in the days following the New Year celebration.
So, should we really ban firecrackers for good come New Year's Day? No doubt there are people who will argue in favor of tradition, and will insist that no New Year celebration is complete without loud bangers. Perhaps this unfortunate incident will convince them otherwise.
TV personality Claudine Trillo posted the above photo of a burned Toyota Fortuner on her Facebook page. Apparently, the brand-new SUV was set ablaze in Ayala Alabang Village after some firecrackers went inside it through an open window.
"I know it's tradition, but are fireworks really that important?" asked Trillo. "This happened to our neighbor's car last night. What a way to start the year. [The Fortuner was a] brand-new car, no plates yet."
It should be noted that firecrackers have been declared illegal in Muntinlupa since 2013. This recent post by the Alabang Bulletin website says that Muntinlupa's Ordinance No. 14-092 prohibits "the manufacture, display, sale, distribution, possession or use of firecrackers or pyrotechnic devices and such other similar devices and explosives within the city." Thanks to this ordinance, the website points out, casualties were reduced "from 18 injuries and one death in 2013 to six injuries in 2014."
The website adds that only "owners of malls and commercial establishments in the city may sponsor a community fireworks display, provided that organizers secure a permit from the PNP and the Bureau of Fire Protection." This means the use of firecrackers by private individuals--yes, even inside gated subdivisions like Ayala Alabang--is illegal in the city. Violation is said to carry a penalty of "a minimum of P1,000 to a maximum of P5,000 or imprisonment of one month to six months."
It is unclear whether charges will be filed in the case of the burned Fortuner--or whether accountability has been established in the first place. But one thing is clear: It is time to seriously consider permanently making firecrackers illegal.
What do you think?
Photo from Claudine Trillo's Facebook page