THE number of firecracker incident victims this year is significantly lower than last year’s and the government has hailed the record as an achievement. But still those who lost limbs and other body parts and functions because of Filipinos’ mad obsession to noisily welcome the New Year will bear the trauma for the rest of their life. It has also cost them a small fortune in hospital bills not to mention the strain these incidents have exerted on public health services and resources.

President Duterte’s initial plan to totally ban fireworks and firecracker use throughout the country was a welcome initiative, but lately some government officials announced a modified version of the proposal where a common explosion area will be designated and secured to regulate pyrotechnic use. The scaled down edition of the prohibition is no doubt due to the lobby of firecracker manufacturers, mainly in Bocaue, Bulacan, who argue that a total ban will mean loss of employment for workers in the industry.

But this is a flimsy excuse to say the least. Firecrackers are not manufactured whole year round, and are stored somewhere to be used in December. These noise makers are normally fabricated starting in the middle of the year or in the last quarter just in time for their eventual sale during the holiday season. In other words, people who work in firecracker factories have other work to do, but are enticed to change jobs in the second half of the year because of the lure of better pay. But since these factories are of questionable location and lack standard safety facilities and practices, factory workers bargain more than what they expect to gain for the capitalists who unashamedly exploit the Filipino’s penchant for hurting himself in the name of fun and revelry.

The use of firecrackers to welcome the New Year originated from the Chinese custom of vociferously warding off bad spirits out of households or buildings. Unlike today when Filipinos use oversized mortars that are visibly a danger to any sane man’s well-being, the original observance employed harmless low grade ‘crackers.

There other secure ways of celebrating revered traditions and milestones without the use of the deadly pyrotechnics. Over the years that a total ban on firecrackers is imposed in Davao where President Duterte was once mayor, the city has recorded practically zero casualties without any reported diminution in the amount of fun and enjoyment during the season. The city instead promoted “Torotot” festival as a creative way to ward off the bad spirits of the old year and welcome the new.

Needless to say, the Duterte administration must go ahead and totally ban the use of firecrackers starting this year.

Another senseless habit of Filipinos that has to be stopped is the indiscriminate firing of guns when celebrating the coming of the New Year. It is really a sad commentary on the national psyche on why gun owners need to discharge their firearms in the middle of festivities. This is an archaic and uncivilized show of imagined machismo and superiority. While some who fire their guns are private citizens, others are members of the country’s armed services. And this age-old lunacy is symptomatic of undisciplined government institutions whose members are supposedly charged with the safety and security of the citizenry, but cannot resist the temptation to display their perceived entitlement through the loud explosion of their blaster.

Imagine the anguish of the family of the Hungarian national who lived somewhere in Iloilo who was shot by his neighbor because the victim reported the assailant to local security forces when he refused to stop exploding firecrackers. But the agony is not to the victim’s tribe alone. Now the clan of the shooter has to bear the loneliness of his absence as he spends time in jail, all because of a short moment of rage caused by two inventions of man brought to extreme and psychotic use by Filipinos.