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A safe welcome tonight for New Year 2018

At 12 midnight tonight, the old year 2017 will give way to the new one 2018. Many will say a silent prayer of thanks for having reached this point in their lives, others wlll mourn the loss of a loved one in the past year, and many will voice a hope and say a prayer that the new year will be better than the last.

As in all previous years, the new year will be welcomed with firecrackers and other noise-makers, along with colorful fireworks in the night sky. Last year, the Department of Health (DOH) said it had monitored a total of 524 fireworks and firecracker-related injuries as of 6 a.m. of January 2, 2017. The DOH said this was 40 percent lower than the number of firecracker victims the previous year.

There were also five stray bullet injuries reported in Metro Manila on New Year’s Day. Despite the repeated warning of the police against gun owners firing their guns into the air to add to the noise of welcoming the New Year, stray bullet incidents continue year after year, some of them caused by policemen themselves.

This year, there are already reports of firecracker victims – a 12-year-old boy in Pasay City, a 62-year-old man in Quezon City, an Army trooper and a nine-year-old boy in Kalinga. It truly is difficult to curb an age-old tradition despite the obvious risks posed by both defective firecrackers and careless handling by young and not-so-young celebrators.

This year, President Duterte has issued Executive Order (EO) 28 limiting the exploding of firecrackers to designated places in the community. It remains to be seen whether this year will be any different from previous years because of EO 28. Traditional firecracker vendors in Bocaue, Bulacan, said it was “business as usual.” They did not feel any drop in demand because of the presidential order.

And so today as we count the hours to midnight, we must take all possible measures to keep New Year’s Eve injuries down. The police will do their best to maintain order when the noise begins in every corner of the community. And every citizen will have to do his/her part – by handling firecrackers with the greatest of care, keeping children from venturing too close to exploding firecrackers, staying in roofed and other covered spaces as much as possible, outside the trajectory of a stray bullet.

Let us welcome the New Year with all the traditional exuberance as it befits our hopes and joys for the news year of 2018. But let us do so with the greatest of care so that on the morrow, we shall face the new year, not with pain and misery but with great expectations for a new beginning, for a truly Happy New Year.