Davao City’s firecracker ban: "Silent Night, Holy Night" for 10 years now

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 December) –  It was another “Silent Night, Holy Night”  as December 24 crossed over to December 25 this year, the 10th since the ban on the use and sale of firecrackers and other pyrotechnics was first implemented here in 2001.

The ten-year old ban has not only saved hundreds of lives (zero death recorded from firecracker blasts or stray bullets) and  property (no firemen rushing to put off fire), it has also spared residents from losing their fingers and their eyesight, among others.

On top of this, midnight masses are now held at nearly midnight, unlike the years before 2001 when  “midnight masses” were held as early as 7 p.m. to ensure parishioners, especially those without vehicles, can walk in peace from church to home, unafraid firecrackers would explode on their path or a bullet would hit them. In the years before 2001, the Christmas merrymaking transformed the city into a “war zone” with all those firecrackers exploding and guns firing.

Then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (now vice mayor) banned the sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnics during the Christmas season in 2001 by not issuing vendors and malls business permits. He said the money for fireworks would be better spent on food. He also announced a P5,000 bounty for anyone who could pinpoint on anyone firing a gun during the merrymaking.

It was a quiet Christmas that year. Instead of shouting across the table during the “noche buena” because firecrackers were exploding here and there, families were now talking to one another.

A priest on Christmas morning 2001 said during the homily that the ban on firecrackers and pyrotechnics gave city residents a real “silent night, holy night.”

He said the silence at midnight gave residents the chance to reflect on the meaning of Christmas.

But it was actually only in 2002 when the City Council passed Ordinance 060-02 prohibiting the manufacture, sale, distribution, possession, or use of firecrackers or pyrotechnic devices.

The ban is not limited only to Christmas and New Year. Firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices are banned as well in the celebration of the Chinese New Year and the Muslims’ Eid’l Fitr (end of Ramadhan).

Ordinance 060-02 penalizes first offenders with a fine of P1,000 or imprisonment of 20 to 30 days, or both; second offenders with a fine of P3,000 or imprisonment of from one to three months or both; and third offenders, a fine of P5,000 or imprisonment of from three to six
months, or both.

Managers or owners of business establishments caught violating the ordinance will also be held liable and their business permits cancelled on the third offense.

During the ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2006 which the city hosted, the display of fireworks was not allowed.  It was instead held in Samal City, across the Davao Gulf.

Organizers then complained because they could not ship the pyrotechnics through Davao City because of the ban.

Last December 13, Customs officials seized some P5 million worth of firecrackers in a  40-foot container van from China which was declared to have contained plastic items and flashlights.

An  x-ray scan indicated the presence of pyrotechnics or explosives inside.

The sale of firecrackers is not banned in the neighboring cities. In Tagum City, the sale of firecrackers is allowed “provided that traders would undergo the firecrackers and pyrotechnic seminar.” The city’s license division permits sellers to operate and dispose their firecrackers
“only in the open area of Rotary sports center.”

Tagum City will have a fireworks display on New Year’s Eve to welcome 2011. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)