Nearly 200 people were injured during traditionally raucous New Year celebrations in the Philippines despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s order limiting the use of firecrackers, the health minister said Monday. The order signed in June restricted the noisy explosives to community fireworks displays in an attempt to curb the bloody merrymaking that leaves scores of Filipinos dead or injured each year.
The Philippines is mainly Catholic but the violent New Year festivities draw on ancient superstitions and Chinese traditions, with people firing guns and setting off powerful fireworks in the belief the bangs will drive away bad spirits.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said 191 people were hurt during the 2018 revelry — down 77 percent compared to the average over the past five years — but added his department might recommend a total firecracker ban to ensure zero casualties. Asked how to further minimize injuries, Duque said, “I think the end goal really is to ban fireworks completely.” Duterte, 72, won elections in mid-2016 vowing to strictly enforce law and order measures.—Agencies