AS THE number of firecracker-related injuries inch closer to last year's total, the Department of Health (DOH) is looking to zero in on the continued presence of the illegal scratch banger, Piccolo, in the market.

In a press briefing Friday, DOH spokesman Dr. Eric Tayag said they too are puzzled as to why Piccolo remains present in the country and has continued to wreak havoc to many New Year revelers, now totaling to 354 or 39 percent.

"Unang-una, malinaw na malinaw na marami ang nadisgrasya dahil sa Piccolo. Ang Piccolo ay imported firecrackers. Ibig sabihin, paano nga nailusot dito, paano nakarating. 'Yan ay isang palaisipan at sana ay magkaroon ng kasagutan," said Tayag.

Aside from being illegally brought into the country, he also pointed that the scratch banger is openly sold in several stalls and stores.

"Iyan ay binebenta pa din na kahit alam naman nilang illegal. Siguro ito ay sabihin na nating parang panunuya sa otoridad ng mga nagtitinda," said Tayag.

The health official, however, said they are not immediately pinning the blame on the police over their supposed failure to apprehend those importing and selling Piccolo.

Still, Tayag said they want to closely assess the extent of the role played by the police and barangay officials in monitoring the presence of Piccolo.

On the other hand, the DOH assistant secretary admitted that the department had failed to coordinate with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) with regard to ensuring that Piccolo will not be able to penetrate the country.

"'Yun po ay siguro masasabing maliit na pagkukulang na hindi namin sila nakaugnayan ng mas nararapat po sapagkat alam naman naming ang Piccolo ay imported," said Tayag.

Piccolo is popular with children as it can be ignited only by scratching its head on a rough surface. It is also sold at only P10 per box.

Meanwhile, according to the Aksyon: Paputok Injury Reduction (APIR) 2013 Report No. 13, there are now a total of 933 cases of injured revelers as 6 a.m. of January 3.

"The figure is 14 cases (2 percent) higher compared to the same period last year," noted the DOH report.

Of the 933, 914 were caused by fireworks and firecrackers, led by Piccolo.

Unknown firecrackers injured a total of 113; followed by kwitis with 91; 5-star with 43; and plapla with 38.

A total of 770 revelers got injured but did not require amputation while another 22 had blast injuries needing amputation.

The latest case of amputation involved an 11-year-old boy from Balong Bato, Quezon City, who lost both hands after setting off the unexploded firecrackers that he collected last January 1.

Twenty-five percent or 229 of those injured also involved children that are less than 10 years old.

On the other hand, 326 (36 percent) of the injuries involved passive users, or those who were not directly using firecrackers.

Stray bullet injuries also rose to 17 after eight additional cases were confirmed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be revelry related.

Cases of firecracker ingestion remained at two, according to the APIR report.

No deaths have been reported yet by any of the 50 DOH sentinel hospitals.

Majority (528 cases or 57 percent) of the injuries took place at the National Capital Region (NCR) followed by Calabarzon with 74 injuries; and Western Visayas with 71 cases.

In Metro Manila, the City of Manila cornered most of the injuries with 205 (39 percent) followed by Quezon City (94) and Mandaluyong City (44). (HDT/Sunnex)