Environmental and health campaigners from the government and the civil society on Thursday held a lively parade exhorting local communities to usher in the New Year in a safe way sans perilous firecrackers and fireworks.
With the nearby petroleum oil depot as backdrop, the waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition and the Department of Health organized the “Ligtas Salubong 2013 sa Komunidad" few days before revelers nationwide ring in the New Year with a bang.
From the patio of the Sto. Niño de Pandacan Parish, contingents from environmental groups, DOH and Manila's District V and VI barangays marched through Jesus, Laura, Menandro, Flerida and Febo Streets and then to Liwasang Balagtas, brandishing their creative, emission-free noisemakers crafted from recycled materials and dancing "Oppa Gangnam Style" to the applause of community residents.
The activity is part of the EcoWaste Coalition’s ongoing “Iwas PapuToxic” drive in support of the Department of Health's Aksyon: Paputok Injury Reduction (APIR) to promote the public health and safety against the many sided hazards posed by pyrotechnic devices.
Health officials led by Secretary Enrique Ona, Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa and Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Miss Universe First Runner-Up Janine Tugonon and representatives from national and local government agencies, including the Bureau of Fire Protection and Philippine National Police participated in the event.
"The protection of our children and people against injury and harm caused by firecrackers is a shared responsibility. We all need to act to reverse this unacceptable practice of exploding firecrackers to usher in the New Year, which has maimed and even claimed the lives of many people. Let's safely welcome the New Year without paputok-related injuries, fires, wastes and toxic fumes," said Sec. Ona.
During the event, Sec. Ona gamely blew a colorful "torotot" with a placard that says "Iwasan - Usok, Basura, Pinsala: Iwas PapuToxic" (Avoid Fumes, Garbage, Injuries: Iwas PapuToxic), while Asec. Tayag danced the "Oppa Gangnam Style" together with children Patrize and Sam of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“We have come to Pandacan, a safety hotspot due to the presence of the oil depot, to urge residents to stay away from firecrackers and fireworks as a precaution against accidental explosions and fires. Taking a collective decision to shield the entire community from real harm is worth it, and as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
"What has become a warlike revelry of noise and pollution is no longer entertaining as we see young children getting disfigured by firecracker blast, the surroundings carpeted in trash and the air reaching hazardous levels that are not safe to breathe," said Ochie Tolentino, Vice-President, EcoWaste Coalition.
To emphasize their point regarding the toxicity of firecrackers, EcoWaste volunteers held huge mock firecrackers marked with skull and cross bones.
Citing information from the Department of Health, the EcoWaste Coalition warned that the use of pyrotechnic devices generate many pollutants, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur compounds, particulate matter, metal oxides and organic compounds, posing health hazards to infants and young children and others with respiratory and cardiovascular ailments.
In addition, firecrackers and fireworks produce huge quantities of non-reusable and non-recyclable discards laced with harmful chemicals, which exacerbate the country’s problem with holiday trash, or "holitrash," during the yuletide season, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.