Online selling, smuggling blamed for short supply of firecrackers, fireworks in Koronadal

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 09 December) – Firecracker and pyrotechnics or fireworks retailers here and the neighboring areas are facing a shortage of supplies and increasing prices ahead of the Yuletide revelry as they grapple with the rampant online selling and the entry of smuggled products.

Johmel Alo, president of Koronadal City Firecracker and Pyrotechnics Retailers Association, said Friday the shipment and deliveries of firecrackers and fireworks from manufacturers based in Bulacan have significantly decreased in the past weeks due to the tight competition with online sellers.

He said some manufacturers reportedly prefer to sell their products to online sellers due to their growing markets, mainly through Facebook and popular e-commerce platforms Lazada and Shopee.

“The prices also nearly tripled because of this situation and it’s been difficult for us,” Alo said in a phone interview.

For instance, he said the market price for “16 shots fireworks” has already gone up to P2,800, including shipping cost, from the previous P1,000 to P1,200.

Based on the group’s monitoring, illegal firecrackers such as Lolo Thunder, Pla-pla, Yolanda and even piccolo are available for online purchase.

Some of these products exceeded the 0.02-gram limit of gunpowder and with others even reaching as high as 500 grams, he said.

Alo, a former vice president of the South Cotabato Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Retailers Association, said his group initially raised the matter two years ago and they continually engage with the manufacturers’ groups and the Philippine National Police to address the problem.

“Online selling of firecrackers should be stopped since it is clearly illegal. We (legitimate retailers) are required to get licenses and permits from the shipping to the selling of our products but those selling online easily ship their items through the couriers,” he said.

These were set in Republic Act 7183 and Executive Order No. 28 that regulates the sale, manufacture, distribution, and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices, he said.

Aside from the online selling, Alo said they also monitored mobile illegal firecracker and fireworks sellers who were going around some barangays in the area.

The illegal sellers, who usually source their products from smugglers, carry the items in their bags and sell them directly to local households.   

Alo said the bulk of their current inventory comprise supplies purchased a year ago and augmented by locally-sourced products.

“Christmas and New Year are coming up but we don’t know if we will have enough to sell. Our upcoming deliveries are minimal,” he said.

South Cotabato province has only one registered firecracker and pyrotechnics manufacturer, the FRT Fireworks based in Barangay San Vicente, Banga town.

The province has a total of 83 registered retailers, with 23 based in this city. Retailers are allowed to set up their displays and sell in designated sites starting Dec. 21.

Capt. Renjun Bagaman, public information officer of the South Cotabato Police Provincial Office, said they have stepped up their intelligence monitoring to prevent the illegal selling of firecrackers and fireworks.

He said they have tapped barangay officials and peacekeeping units to assist their monitoring and enforcement activities.

“All those sold outside the designated areas are illegal and will be confiscated. Violators will be apprehended and face the necessary penalties and sanctions,” he said in a media forum.

South Cotabato province, including this city, recorded a total of 32 firecracker and fireworks-related injuries during the previous Christmas and New Year revelries.

Majority of the victims were children and teenagers, with 23 listed as active users, a report from the Integrated Provincial Health Office said.

Norala town posted the most number of cases with six, followed by Surallah with five, and this city and Tboli with three each.

The leading cause of injury was kwitis with 11, 5-star triangle with five and two each by boga, small triangle, flying tiger and piccolo. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)