CEBU, Philippines — Dozens were injured as the many across the country, including Cebu and Central Visayas, used firecrackers in their holiday celebrations, according to data released by the Department of Health yesterday.

Eight more individuals have been injured by firecracker blasts a few hours before New Year’s Day, bringing the injury count to 62.

The latest figure is 3 percent higher than the number of cases recorded from December 21 to 30, 2018 but it is 63 percent lower than the five-year average of 169 cases, Health secretary Francisco Duque III said in a press briefing.

“We are expecting the worst but we are preparing the best possible way we can. There will be no complacency,” he said.

In an earlier interview on ABS-CBN News Channel, Duque said most of the victims are from Metro Manila. The capital region was followed by Ilocos region, Central Visayas, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON and Bicol region.

In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police to confiscate and destroy prohibited fireworks. He also directed that the issuance of new licenses and permits is also suspended, pending the compliance review of those who have licenses and permits.

Earlier in 2017, he signed Executive Order 28, which limits the use of firecrackers to community fireworks display.

New Year Revelries

Amid the revelries, the public is being watched, authorities have assured.

Policemen in Central Visayas have been deployed to monitor the New Year’s celebration in line with their intensified security measures for the holidays that started on Christmas Day.

In an interview with reporters yesterday, Police Brigadier General Ildebrande Usana, deputy director of Police Regional Office-7, disclosed that he inspected police offices in Cebu and Bohol to make sure their security preparations are in place.

“We hope that our police personnel will really be willing, able and ready to address any eventuality. Ang sa amin naman po maging peaceful pa rin ang celebration kahit merong mga taong nagsasaya ngayon,” Usana said.

Usana further explained that he is hopeful that amid the celebration, no persons will engage in any of the discouraged activities such as indiscriminate firing and use of illegal firecrackers.

Based on initial inspections, Usana assessed that police stations in different parts of the region are now “ready” for their duties and responsibilities, including monitoring threats from insurgency.

“Of course, sa mga firearms holders, we also advised them not to (use) their firearms for purposes lang na magsaya dahil ito’y magko-cause din ng trouble din sa ating mamamayan,” Usana reminded the public.

Usana said that firearm-holders must avoid indiscriminate firing as it may result to injuries or even death.

“Ito yung mga madalas na nangyayari sa unang panahon, wag sanang mangyari na because of illegal discharge of firearms ay merong magsa-suffer sa ilan nating mamamayan,” Usana said.

Usana also used the occasion to call on holders of loose firearms to surrender the same and not use them.

No incident of indiscriminate firing has been reported so far in the region, and Usana hopes it will be sustained until the end of the holiday season.

Disaster Teams Ready

Meanwhile, the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office declared it is now prepared to respond to emergencies during the New Year revelries.

CCDRRMO chief Harold Alcontin said that since the use of firecrackers during New Year is part of the Filipino culture, parents should watch over what their children do during these times.

Alcontin also warned the public against overcharging of cellphones and gadgets to avoid fire incidents.

Alcontin’s team is now on a red alert status, which means that barangay fire volunteers have been tapped to join in visibility patrols.

At least 10 ambulances have also been prepositioned in strategic places in the city, ready to respond as needed. Two of these ambulances are stationed in the city’s upland areas.

The city’s command center is also ready to receive calls from residents needing immediate assistance. It can be reached by dialing 160 or 2321424.

Also, generator sets are also on standby in case of brownouts.

Alcontin said that overall, they are now ready to answer to alarms pursuant to the directive issued by Mayor Edgardo Labella that they should not take the occasion lightly.

Palma’s Message

For his part, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma is urging the Catholic faithful to look back at “the year that was” in order to seek guidance for “the year that is coming.”

Palma said it is important for the people to reflect on their experiences in 2019 and make use of them to lead better lives in 2020.

The prelate also underscored the need for people to thank God for the blessings they received during the closing year.

Palma said it is also important to greet the new year in the spirit of hope and faith, that despite the tragedies that have befallen people like typhoons and earthquakes, they should remain steadfast.

He said all challenges and trials in life can be overcome if the faithful will not lose hope and persevere.

Palma officiated last night the Mass at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral meant to greet the New Year., JMD (FREEMAN)



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