How the fireworks ban affects Filipino vendors

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The Executive Order regulating fireworks affects the legal manufacturers and vendors who depend on the year-end boom in business the most.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — For the majority of the Filipinos celebrating on New Year’s Eve, there is nothing more highly-anticipated than putting on a fireworks show, save for the bountiful Media Noche spread. After eating our fill, we begin the tradition of lighting up fireworks and watching the sky light up in patterned, controlled explosions as the clock strikes midnight, signaling the start of the New Year.

This year, however, there was a drastic amendment on the practice when President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Executive Order No. 28, regulating the production, distribution, and use of firecrackers. This regulation affects the legal manufacturers and vendors who depend on the year-end boom in business the most.

Andrea Salazar, a vendor in Masinag Public Market in Antipolo, said that her sales have lessened this year due to the new regulations. Last year, she was able to sell ₱20,000 worth of goods as opposed to a meager ₱7,000 this year. Sparklers and fountains, although still very popular, sell less than the now prohibited Goodbye Philippines, Five Star, Atomic Bomb, and Super Lolo.

She says if this persists, she needs to sell more general merchandise throughout the year, something she isn’t confident about. Nonetheless, she supports EO No. 28 as it will supposedly eradicate, or at least limit the number of injuries and fatalities, and safeguard little children, who are usually the victims of explosions and stray bullets.

On Dec. 20, 2017, three leading pyrotechnics distributors — Dragon Fireworks, Pyroworks, and Grand Firefly Fireworks — organized a press conference to inform the public about the difference between the legal and safer consumer pyrotechnics, and the illegal, hazardous firecrackers.

Consumer pyrotechnics are devices that are readily available to the general public, including sparklers, fountains, and kwitis, which produce colored lights, flames and sparks. These may be used outside of firecracker zones assigned by local government units.

On the other hand, firecrackers are low explosive devices that are usually wrapped in cardboard or newspaper sheets with explosive compounds and lit with a fuse. They are primarily used to create explosions in the form of a loud bang. These are harmful to spectators and passersby, and are only confined to the assigned community fireworks zones.

The local government of Metro Manila has already assigned 33 fireworks zones: eight in Valenzuela City, seven in Mandaluyong City, two  in Marikina City, and one in San Juan City. In contrast, the City of Baguio in Benguet has issued a total ban on fireworks for the fourth consecutive year, while the Municipality of La Trinidad, under the La Trinidad Firecracker and Pyrotechnic Devices Ordinance, and Tuba Town in Benguet, heeded the call of Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, and are also banning the use of the devices this year. In the mayor’s city alone, the incidents concerning this yearly celebration has gone down to five last year, the lowest number of cases so far.

In an attempt to implement EO No. 28, QCPD District Special Operations Unit 9 have already arrested illegal sellers, both on the ground, and online. Only sellers with issued permits are allowed to sell their merchandise, and retailers are still monitored closely. The Philippine National Police (PNP)-Calabarzon is confident to record zero cases of firework-related injuries and indiscriminate firing this year, versus last year’s 229 recorded cases in the region. The DOH is projecting a 50 percent decrease in fireworks and firecracker-related injuries from last year.

There are complaints from the Philippine Fireworks Association that more than 300 containers of banned fireworks are smuggled into the country yearly, which are sold on sidewalks without the permission of authorities, which undermine the livelihood of the legitimate producers and vendors. Now that there are stricter policies instigated, they are expecting an even bigger drop in sales and profit.

The more restrictive issuance this year may mean a decline in sales for the local retailer, but this could also mean an opportunity to be creative and more competitive in terms of the products made available to the public. We’ll have to see how effectively EO No. 28 can be executed in the coming years, and hope that the plight of the manufacturers and distributors during the first year of implementation will give way to a positive outcome — the safety of Filipinos during a time of festivity.