At a press conference last December 26, the group of fireworks distributors decried the ban issued by Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan on the sale of pyrotechnics in the city. “He’s depriving us of our livelihood,” “the law clearly provides only for regulation, not outright prohibition,” they said.
Sell toys instead, they were allegedly told by the mayor. They’re not buying that, they said it’s like asking a plumber to do carpentry work. Then the DENR raised the environment card – fireworks cause so much pollution. True, too. Then one licensed distributor threatened, “if the ban is not lifted, then we would have no other recourse but to resort to guerrilla tactics to sell our merchandise.”
The ban has its merits, but it came too late. Almost every year, we hear our mayor announcing a ban on the sale of pyrotechnics, only to lift the same at the last minute. The distributors do not stock up a couple of weeks before New Year’s Eve, they would have had to place their orders from manufacturers way before that in order to have their merchandise ready for distribution weeks before the one day in the year that they can make the most sales. City hall needs longer foresight – announcing this ban much earlier would have given the distributors the opportunity to find alternatives to selling fireworks. You don’t tell the actor just before he gets on stage to paint a painting instead – he’s worked for months memorizing the script, his blocking, understanding his character and internalizing everything, and he doesn’t know how to paint and can’t learn how in just a few minutes.
Aside from environmental concerns, the other reason cited for the ban is public safety. Every year, January 1’s headlines have all been about the number of fingers lost, houses burned, even deaths due to firecrackers, oops, the distributors specifically said they’re selling fireworks, not firecrackers, “pailaw” and not “paputok”… anyway, the mayor also wanted to lessen if not totally eradicate pyrotechnic-related injuries and deaths on New Year’s Eve. I agree with him on this one.
The press conference ended and the one statement that stood out was the threat: they will do guerrilla selling if the ban stays. That would mean going under the radar of the government, which means that they can sell even prohibited pyrotechnics, the ones that maim, burn, damage property and kill – “bawang,” Judas’ belt, thunder, “lolo” thunder, super thunder, super “lolo” thunder, goodbye Philippines, goodbye world (the names alone do give you a clear picture of what these firecrackers, nay, firebombers can do).
That’s my main concern in this issue: law enforcement. The question is, can the Mayor’s office really, effectively and fully enforce the ban?
Here are the scenarios: allow the licensed distributors to sell, regulate what they’re selling limiting it to relatively safer fireworks and perhaps even do all that while discouraging people from taking these things into their own hands and offer a citywide fireworks display instead. Or make the ban stay and risk all these distributors going underground selling their explosive merchandise, legal and illegal, in back alleys from the trunk of their cars where the government do not have eyes. We haven’t even gone into the issue of gun owners indiscriminately firing their firearms to welcome the New Year.
As for me and my family, we’ll have a nice dinner, talk about how our lives have been the past year, and what our aspirations are in the coming year, and play good music and laugh and be merry looking up to the sky not to watch fireworks but to envision a meaningful, even happier New Year… while being cautious enough to be safe under a roof for we never know where those bullets would land.