The Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI) held a week long seminar training on safe manufacturing and regulation of firecrackers and pyrotechnics at a resort in this city with local government officials and stakeholders as participants.
Officials of the the city government of Malolos and the provincial government of Bulacan said they fully support the industry with the proper implementation of laws and regulations.
DOST Director in Central Luzon Dr. Julius Caesar V. Sicat said that, with the seminar training the department is pushing for world-class, relevant and region-based development of the industry.
Bulacan, specifically the town of Bocaue, is well-known for fireworks, and it is high time that they face and resolve various issues involving the trade, he said.
Sicat added that the DOST will focus on pyrotechnics so that it would no longer be a seasonal industry and make it viable whole year round so that it will supply not only the country but the world with quality products.
Sicat said he will urge the Regional Development Council to strengthen its support to the industry.
On the other hand, Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said the DOST is supporting the Duterte administration policy to utilize the modern technology to provide opportunities and help the local areas to expand and to give them potential to grow.
The DOST is also planning to revive and preserve the dying industries in Bulacan, such as the making of bakya (wooden slippers) in Meycauayan, Baliwag town's buntal (palm leaf) hat and fishponds, among others.
"The Fireworks industry needs safety procedures, new technologies and must comply with international standards," De la Peña said.
De la Peña added that the DOST had earlier conducted forums on the proper handling and storage of chemicals, new technologies and international standards.
De la Peña said the Department of Health wants to reduce the number of casualties from fireworks and firecrackers, which led it to propose the total firecracker ban, but which was prevented when President Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) 28 in June 2017.
EO 28 did not completely ban the use of firecrackers. It stated that firecracker use will be confined to community fireworks display "to minimize the risk of injuries and casualties."
The trend is going to fireworks display like in Dubai, Europe and Japan.
Because of the dangers caused by unsafe products that led to government warnings, the number of Bulacan's fireworks and firecracker manufacturers is now down to less than 100 compared to the previous years.
The secretary said the department, together with other governmental agencies, is planning to send local manufacturers to the United Kingdom for them to study and acquire updated expertise on pyrotechnics and firecrackers.
The DOST also plans to have a common facility in the province that is compliant with good manufacturing practice and equipped with a quality-control laboratory in coordination with other local government units and stakeholders in the industry. The DOST and the Department of National Defense have recently signed an agreement for the creation of a research program on the industry.
Bocaue Mayor Eleanor J. Villanueva-Tugna said they hold a pailaw-pasasalamat (fireworks thanksgiving), a grand pyrotechnics musical display for the Bocaueños, so that the residents do not have to go out of town and other places dedicated for fireworks displays.
The mayor added that the fireworks industry is part of the history, culture and tradition of Filipinos. It serves as a source of livelihood for Bocaueños.
"We are for safe and proper production. Bocaue strongly condemns the bad practices and supports the modernization of pyrotechnics industry," Villanueva-Tugna said partly in Filipino.
She believes that, if other countries can produce safe and world-standard pyrotechnics products, Filipinos can do it better. She wants Bocaue to remain as the No.1 producer of fireworks in the country.
Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado said 2017 was a crucial year for the industry in the province because of the threat of a total firecracker ban.
"It was really a wake-up call for us. We have to talk about quality [products], and that the DOST could be of help. The DOH is still pushing for the banning because of the injuries [caused by substandard products]. The future of the firecrackers depends on it [quality products]," the governor said.
Sy-Alvarado added, "Smuggled products are cheap and have good quality. We have to find ways on how we can complete with them as Asean integration is implemented. [We need support from] banks for additional capitalization, [new technology for] packaging and quality [production], and marketing to be able to compete [successfully]."
"We have to do a rethink of the industry. The regulation doesn't fit the culture of Filipinos in using firecrackers, but I am thankful to the [Duterte] administration for not totally banning the firecrackers," he said.
"Learn and analyze what we are yesterday and what we are today to face the future where coordination of everyone is vital. Live for what we have. Improve what we have in producing quality, low-cost and good products. The national government must regulate and support the development of the industry, such as giving subsidy for the SMEs [small and medium enterprises] because shifting to pyrotechnics will require a much bigger capital," Sy-Alvarado added.
Meanwhile, Provincial Board Member Baby Posadas said the total number of casualties in firecrackers in 2017 decreased by up to 60 percent compared to 2016 figures. Imported piccolo is the primary cause of casualties.
Other participants in the seminar training are Engr. Celso Cruz, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Pyrotechnic Manufacturers and Dealers Association Inc.; Philippine Fireworks Association President Joven Ong; PPMDAI Vice President Marlene Lea Alapide; and other members and stakeholders of the Bulacan Pyrotechnics Regulatory Board.
The 150 other participants were from over the 10 municipalities, including Pandi, Bocaue, Santa Maria, Baliwag, San Miguel, San Ildefonso, Norzagaray, Angat and San Rafael in Bulacan.