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Welcome New Year safely, Loren urges revelers

December 29, 2010

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA ON TUESDAY URGED FILIPINOS TO SAFELY USHER IN THE NEW YEAR BY REFRAINING FROM USING FIRECRACKERS AND SPARKLERS, THE CAUSE OF COUNTLESS DEATHS AND MAIMING DURING THE ANNUAL REVELRY.
Loren noted with dismay that the Department of Health’s zero-accident target for 2009 had already become unattainable with a serious pyrotechnics-related accident in General Santos City on Christmas Day.
“Three people died from the accident in GenSan, which should once again remind us of the dangers associated with using, selling or even just being near firecrackers,” said Loren.
The senator pointed out that firecrackers not only maim, but also cause fires, like the one that gutted several makeshift establishments selling firecrackers at the Oval Plaza in General Santos City.
The fatalities in the accident were identified by the police as Marivic Castillo, 25, and April Reyson Arangat, 23, who were both burned beyond recognition; and store helper Arlene Arnaiz, 28, who lost one leg and later died in a hospital.
Loren said that the use of firecrackers also results in environmental pollution, especially at the height of New Year’s Eve revelries, when thick smog from the use of firecrackers blankets cities.
“The toxic fumes produced by firecrackers cause ailments, while a number of cases through the years have been reported of people, especially children, ingesting the poisonous firecracker known as watusi,” she said.
Chair and founder of the environmental group Luntiang Pilipinas, Legarda warned that chemicals used in producing firecrackers and sparklers also contaminate the soil and could leach into the water table, thereby compromising the safety of potable water.
She urged all government agencies, including the police and local government units, to go all-out in the crackdown on the sale of the more powerful firecrackers that come with such fancy names as “atomic bomb”, pla-pla, bawang and super lolo.
“These powerful firecrackers should be confiscated by the police and barangay tanods (village guards) and immediately put out of commission,” she stressed.
Likewise, Loren urged the leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to continue their yearly practice of muzzling the service firearms of their personnel to ensure they are not used in welcoming the new year.
“But there will always be some with itchy trigger fingers. The police should be on the lookout for those who will fire their guns indiscriminately into the air on New Year’s Eve,” Loren warned.
“As a precaution, I also urge our people to stay indoors as much as possible, ideally under concrete ceilings and away from windows, in order to protect themselves from stray bullets.”
Loren also appealed to motorists not to drink and drive to avert road accidents.
From Dec. 22 to Dec. 25, the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center monitored a total of 23 fireworks-related injuries nationwide, a figure which it said is 10 cases lower than last year’s and 12 cases lower than the three-year daily cumulative cases from 2006 to 2008.