ALERT UP FOR THE NEW YEAR
Police warning: You can get arrested for exploding firecracker outside of the designated zone
The public is warned against exploding firecrackers outside of the designated areas or they will face arrest, even as the police, the Department of Health (DOH) and the local governments are now in full alert amid an expected rise in blast-related injuries.
But even as authorities are getting ready to deal with residents, especially children, who will get firecracker and pyrotechnic injuries during the revelry to greet the New Year, vendors are reporting a dramatic drop in the sales of firecrackers in Barangay Babag, Lapu-Lapu City and the South RoadProperties (SRP) in Cebu City, prompting them to drop prices to draw more customers before they pack up their 2017 display.
The low prices for firecrackers, however, is not good news for authorities, as this could again encourage revelers to buy harmful noisemakers and explode them just anywhere.
But be warned.
Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) information officer Supt. Reyman Tolentin said that since their focus is to have zero casualty or at least minimize firecracker-related injuries, they will strictly implement President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 28, which regulates the use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices and allows them to be exploded only in “firecracker zones” designated by the local government units (LGUs).
Cebu City, for example, designated the vacant lots at the South Road Properties (SRP) as its firecracker zone.
“Now, ang message nato sa katawhan kun gusto sila mag-New Year sa police station, magpabuto sila sa gawas sa designated area (Now our message to the public is that if they want to spend their New Year at the police station, then light up firecrackers outside of the designated area),” said Tolentin.
Tolentin said the police can arrest those who will violate the law, and violators can be detained for up to six months.
Tolentin said the police have been coordinating with the Bureau of Fire Protection in Central Visayas (BFP-7) and all LGUs in the region to determine their firecracker zones, which have to be open spaces.
“Kadtong mga walay open space or those LGUs nga walay gihatag nga designated areas, then it will be interpreted nga there will be no firecracker zone sa ilang lugar (Those that do not have any open spaces or those LGUs that have no designated areas, it will be interpreted that they have no firecracker zone in their place),” Tolentin said.
Tolentin noted that in Cebu City, for example, Barangay Kasambagan did not designate a firecracker zone, so firecrackers or pyrotechnic materials could not be exploded anywhere in the barangay.
Policemen have started conducting patrols to check their areas for any violators starting Friday, December 29, said Tolentin.
Tolentin also encouraged the public to take photos or videos of those who will use firecrackers in non-designated areas and report it to the nearest police station.
But because of the low demand, the prices of “Roman Candles” and “Sky Beauties,” two of the most demanded pyrotechnics during the New Year, now range from only P125 to P150, while fountains cost from P40 to P150, almost half of what they usually cost last year.
Saturnino Santos, 36, one of the vendors in Barangay Babag, said they have been dropping prices as much as they could just to sell all their inventory, even as he still hoped that their regular customers from the previous years would come today for a last-minute shopping for pyrotechnic products.
Michael Biña, 38, another vendor who has been selling firecrackers for 16 years, said he only hoped to recover his investment before closing his display three or four hours before the New Year celebration tonight.
Biña blamed their drop in sales to the bad weather and restrictions in the sale and use of firecrackers.
At the SRP, some stores had also started giving “buy-one-get-one” offers just to sell their products.
“Kung di namo i-buy one take one, wa man pud gyu’y motuyo og anhi,” he said.
Justine Faith Rosal, whose family has been selling firecrackers for 11 years, said they had to do the bargain offer since no one would come to SRP otherwise.
The popular “one-hundred-shot” firework, for example, was selling yesterday for P2,500, or a thousand pesos less than the usual price.
Luciana Mejias, who came from Perrelos, Carcar, was one of the few customers to visit the firecracker stores in SRP yesterday.
“I would really save money for it (firecrackers) in the New Year. It’s a tradition every year,” said the 71-year-old Mejias.
Mejias, who was accompanied by her son, bought two 5,000-round firecrackers and a 100-shot firework set.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE-7) yesterday said that all the 144 manufacturers and sellers of firecrackers and pyrotechnics in Barangay Babag, Lapu-Lapu City that they inspected passed the government’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) requirement.
DOLE-7 Information Officer III Luchel Taniza, however, noted there were only less than 50 retailers displaying their goods in Barangay Babag, or just half of the over a hundred vendors in the same area last year.
The stringent rules provided under EO 28 could be the reason for the drop in the number of vendors, he said, since the order prohibits testing to ensure safety.
Retailers were also required to have a safe distance of at least six meters in between and must have a bucket of water stocked near their stalls.
The Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7), on the other hand, has declared a “code white” status, which placed all medical personnel in government-run hospitals in alert status and within reach to attend to blast injuries.
Dr. Mari Leo Fidel Pataray, who heads the emergency department of the regional hospital Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), yesterday said the hospital has at least a hundred doctors and 70 nurses ready to attend to the needs of patients who will be brought to its emergency room (ER) between today and tomorrow.
As of December 30, the hospital has recorded five firecracker injury victims, ages six to 13 years old, and a 28-year-old victim of stray bullet, she said.
Among those injured with blast and eye injuries were 6-year-old and 9-year-old brothers from Badian, Cebu, who were playing with “kwitis.”
Patrols vs pickpockets
The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), on the other hand, is on alert against pickpockets and other petty criminals out to victimize holiday shoppers.
Supt. Artemeo Ricabo, CCPO’s deputy director for administration, said that all station commanders have been directed to pay to closer attention to crowded areas and the city’s commercial districts.
Police patrols in these areas will continue until January, since Cebu City is still expecting large crowds of foreign and local tourists who will come for the Sinulog Festival, which is celebrated every third week of January.
Yesterday, an alleged leader of pickpocket gang, identified as Apolonio Tolibas, 40, from Sitio Pangpang, Barangay San Isidro, Talisay City, was collared in downtown Cebu City while attempting to pick a pocket of a public utility jeepney (PUJ) rider along Fuente Osmeña Boulevard.
PO2 Manuel Sejano, Fuente police team leader, said a .38 revolver with three live ammunition and and five sachets of shabu (crystal meth) were allegedly recovered from Tolibas.
The Carbon police also arrested four pickpockets, all of whom were later found to be cohorts of Tolibas. / WITH CORRESPONDENT BENJIE B. TALISIC
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