Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ban on firecrackers in Makati

A ban on the use of firecrackers in areas traversed by the gas pipeline of the Lopez-owned First Philippine Industrial Corporation (FPIC) in Makati City has gotten the support of environmental group EcoWaste Coalition.

"Firecrackers are the last thing anyone needs to celebrate the season, especially since these have already been proven to be toxic to humans, animals and the environment," said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

"They're even more of a threat in Makati City, especially since the FPIC has yet to complete the remediation work and the clean-up of West Tower and surrounding villages affected by the massive spill underneath the ground. We, therefore, laud and support the precautionary ban on firecrackers adopted by the City Council and signed by Mayor Jun-Jun Binay," she added.

To dramatize their appeal, members of the group and the Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice joined hands with the Barangay Council of Bangkal, where a leak in the FPIC pipeline used to transport petroleum from Batangas to the Pandacan oil depots, in staging a parade around the area to call attention to the danger of using firecrackers.

The parade was led by a man dressed as Santa Claus who held a friendly reminder that said "Sabi ni Santa: Kaligtasan Muna, Iwas-Paputoxic."

Participants also carried 10 oversized mock triangulos bearing the word "NO!" while blowing whistles to get the attention of passersby and bystanders.

"It's hard enough that we have to worry about toxic fumes from firecrackers every year," said Barangay Bangkal chair Fermin Eusebio. "It's outrageous to think that we have to add the very real possibility of starting destructive fires in the city to our list of woes."

"One misplaced firecracker thrown by a careless reveler could place hundreds of lives in danger. It's always better to be safe than sorry, especially during the holidays. We call on all concerned citizens to abide by the city ordinance and to make sure their neighbors do so as well," Lucero said.

The Makati City Council approved last December 7 an ordinance banning the sale, manufacture, storage, possession or use of all types of firecrackers, pyrotechnic devices, and other explosive materials in the areas of Bangkal, Pio Del Pilar, and Magallanes.

The ordinance was issued amid fears of fire starting in the mentioned barangays, which are traversed by the FPIC pipeline.

Results of vapor tests

Mayor Binay also took note of the results of vapor tests conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Center of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) showing that vapors inside the West Tower "have a high explosive limit."

Among those prohibited by the ordinance are baby rocket, bawang, small triangulo, pulling of strings, paper caps, el Diablo, watusi, Judah's belt, sky rocket (kwitis), "and other types equivalent to the foregoing in explosive content".

Pyrotechnic devices such as sparklers, luces, fountain, jumbo regular and special, mabuhay, roman candle, trompillo, airwolf, whistle, butterfly, all kinds of pyrotechnic devices (pailaw), "and other types equivalent to the foregoing devices," are also banned.

Apart from the threat of explosion and fire due to the damaged pipeline, the EcoWaste Coalition is also concerned about the toxic burden that firecrackers and other pyrotechnics release into the atmosphere.

Citing information provided by the health department, the coalition said these devices generate many pollutants, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur compounds, particulate matter, metal oxides and organic compounds, when burned. These pose health risks to infants and young children and those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

"Why do we need to use these dangerous and toxic items when there are more creative alternatives available?" asked Lucero. "Is it really worth putting our families' lives in danger for a few short-lived bursts of light in the sky?"

Instead of firecrackers, fireworks and similar devices, the group is promoting the use of substitute noisemakers that will not cause injuries, fire, and pollution.

Lucero cited as an example shakers that could be made by filling discarded soap and toothpaste boxes with pebbles. Beverage cans and plastic bottles could also be used for this purpose.

Maracas can be made from tin cans, while flattened metal bottle caps could be strung together to create a makeshift tambourine. Pots and pans may serve as cymbals and drums. Toy horns (torotot) are also used to make some noise.


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