IN MY more than half a century of existence in this Earth, this is the first time that I experienced a rainy New Year’s Day. The cause of the New Year’s revelry spoiler is the low pressure area which used to be Tropical Depression Usman and the northeast monsoon or hangin amihan. Let’s not quickly attribute the freak weather to climate change. Not until climate experts say so.

The rain somehow dampened the New Year’s eve celebration. There was a reduction in fireworks and outdoor activities. There’s a good side to this however. The Department of Health (DOH) said that firecracker-related injuries nationwide were 80 percent lower than the 5-year average. DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the drop in the number of cases was partly attributed to the rainy weather.

Less firecrackers and fireworks also mean less air pollution in the first day of the year. Based on the monitoring of the Environmental Pollution Studies Laboratory (EPSL) of the University of the Philippines (UP), air pollution levels in Metro Manila during New Year’s eve was still poor but was at an all-time low. The rains washed away the tiny particles emitted by pyrotechnics.

The losers are the firecracker vendors. The rain affected sales and damaged some of their stuff. The Bureau of Fire Protection and the Philippine National Police were also stricter in implementing Executive Order No. 28, which regulate illegal firecrackers and fireworks.

In Mabalacat, I observed that vendors were confined to certain areas only.

Meanwhile, it’s not only rain that’s falling on New Year’s eve. Okada Manila has planned to hold a record-breaking balloon dropping event at Cove Manila. They planned to drop about 130,000 pieces of balloons during the New Year’s Eve countdown. However, many concerns were raised from various sectors about the environmental impact of the event.

Okada Manila has explained to the public that “the event will not harm the environment, as the event will be held indoors and the balloons will not be released in the air. The balloons are made of biodegradable latex materials and will be recycled properly after the event.”

Still, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ordered the event organizers to stop the balloon drop because of the huge amount of solid waste that the event would generate. DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said that there is no such thing as biodegradable balloons, saying all of them will just turn into microplastic that eventually endangers the wildlife creatures in the sea.

Antiporda said that the DENR will not hesitate to arrest and file charges against the organizers who will push through with the “balloon drop.” In the end, the management of Okada Manila voluntarily decided to cancel the balloon drop event.

Happy New Year everyone!