Philippines says 'fear of Duterte' lessens New Year injuries

Revellers watch as fireworks explode over the Quezon Memorial Circle during New Year's celebrations in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines January 1, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

Fears that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte would harshly punish revellers who celebrate the New Year with firecrackers caused a "remarkable" decline in injuries, the health minister said on Sunday (Jan 1).

The Philippines indulges in an annual orgy of New Year's Eve merrymaking that leaves hundreds maimed as people set off firecrackers and fire guns in the air in a loud and raucous overnight celebration.

World parties to ring in 2017 despite terror jitters

  • Members of the Nepalese indigenous Gurung community wear traditional attire as they take part in a New Year celebration ceremony known as "Tamu Lhosar" in Kathmandu on December 30, 2016, held to celebrate their New Year or Lhosar.
  • People release balloons, carrying their wishes, to celebrate the New Year at Prince Park Tower in the Japanese capital Tokyo on January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks are seen above Pyongyang, North Korea on New Year day in this photo provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks light up the sky over Kim Il Sung Square at midnight in Pyongyang to bring in New Year's Day on January 1, 2017.
  • A man and a boy offer prayers on the first day of the new year at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, January 1, 2017.
  • People wearing bear skins dance in the streets of Comanesti, Romania, on December 30, 2016 during a parade to drive away evil spirits of the past year. From Christmas Eve until after New Year, Romanians bring to life the various rituals, which often include costumes and masks evoking animals, such as bears, horses or goats.
  • Thais hold candle lights as they pray to celebrate the new year at Sanam Luang park in Bangkok, Thailand January 1, 2017.
  • View of a light show on the city's iconic Arc de Triomphe monument during the New Year celebration in Paris, France, December 31, 2016.
  • Fireworks for New Year celebration are launched from boats at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on January 1, 2017.
  • FARC guerilla fighters celebrate the New Year before their demobilization at the Front 24 Alberto Martinez encampment in the Vegaez municipality, Antioquia department, Colombia on January 1, 2017. Colombia's Congress on Wednesday passed a law granting amnesty to Marxist FARC rebels as part of the country's peace deal, a development the government hailed as "historic."
  • The Countdown Wishing Trees - between Dec 1 and 30, the public can collect a wishing charm from one of the Marina Bay Singapore Countdown 2017 wishing activity attendants at Marina Bay waterfront promenade.
  • The Waterford crystal ball lit by Phillips on display before the Philips Ball Test during the runup to Times Square New Year's Eve 2017 at One Times Square on December 30, 2016 in New York City.
  • A family fireworks illuminates the sky above the iconic Opera House in Sydney on December 31, 2016, ahead of New Years fireworks. /
  • Fireworks erupt over Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House during the New Years Eve fireworks show on January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode as "2017" is displayed at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre during New Year celebrations in Hong Kong, China January 1, 2017.
  • Police officers stand guard at the location where a stampede incident occurred during New Year celebrations two years ago, on the Bund in Shanghai, China December 31, 2016. Authorities in the Chinese city of Shanghai have opted not to organize New Year celebrations on the historic riverfront Bund this week, two years after a stampede killed 36 people.
  • Fireworks display at The Marina Bay Singapore 2017 Countdown party.
  • Cleaners clean up the Esplanade Waterfront after the Marina Bay Singapore 2017 Countdown party.
  • Fireworks light the sky over the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral during the New Year's Day celebrations in central Moscow
  • People gather at the Reeperbahn street in St.Pauli red-light district before the New Year celebrations for 2017 in Hamburg
  • Lights reading 2017 are projected on the pyramids during New Year's day celebrations on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode next to the Quadriga sculpture atop the Brandenburg gate during New Year celebrations in Berlin
  • Fireworks explode next to the Quadriga sculpture atop the Brandenburg gate during New Year celebrations in Berlin
  • Fireworks explode by the Big Ben clocktower in London, Britain January 1, 2017.
  • View of a light show on the city's iconic Arc de Triomphe monument during the New Year celebration in Paris, France, December 31, 2016.
  • Policemen secure the Champs Elysees Avenue as Revellers gather during New Year celebrations in Paris,France, late December 31, 2016.
  • People gather at Hallgrims church to celebrate the New Year in Reykjavik, Iceland, January 1, 2017.
  • Brightly colored decorations are seen during New Year celebrations January 1, 2017 in Abidjan.
  • Hazim Syukri. The 2.4kg infant had been due to arrive on 14 January 2017, but became Singapore’s first New Year baby instead.
  • Hazim Syukri. The 2.4kg infant had been due to arrive on 14 January 2017, but became Singapore’s first New Year baby instead.
  • Fireworks explode over Copacabana beach during New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode over Copacabana beach during New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro
  • Fireworks explode over Copacabana beach during New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro
  • A boy throws a coin into a giant offering box on the first day of the new year at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, January 1, 2017.
  • People make their way to offer prayers on the first day of the new year at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode during a pyrotechnic show to celebrate the new year in the coastal city of Valparaiso, Chile January 1, 2017.
  • Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko smile with their family members during a photo session for the New Year at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo
  • Fireworks light up the sky over Kim Il Sung Square at midnight in Pyongyang to bring in New Year's Day on January 1, 2017. /
  • South Korean Buddhist followers pray during a New Year's Day service for the Korean Peninsula's reunification and peace at the Imjingak peace park in the border city of Paju near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode during New Year celebrations in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, December 31, 2016.
  • Fireworks explode during New Year celebrations in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, December 31, 2016.
  • Couples kiss during New Year's Eve celebrations at Times Square on January 1, 2017 in New York.
  • Revelers play in the confetti at the start of 2017 at the New Year's celebration in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 1, 2017.
  • Revelers embrace at the start of 2017 at the New Year's celebration in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 1, 2017.

But Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said injuries during this year's revelry were the lowest in 10 years after Duterte said he was considering repeating a ban on firecrackers which he implemented when mayor of his southern home town of Davao."People are now afraid to light firecrackers because of the president," Ubial said.

"They have this impression that somehow they will get caught or they will be punished." Ubial said 350 were injured by firecrackers and fireworks this year compared to a 10-year average of 1,000.

$175m worth of 'shabu' seized in Philippine record drugs haul

  • Methamphetamine, also known locally as 'shabu', worth S$97 million that was seized by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) during a raid, is pictured in San Juan city, metro Manila, Philippines December 23, 2016.
  • Members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) compile an inventory of methamphetamine, also known locally as 'shabu', worth S$97 million that was seized in a raid in San Juan city, metro Manila, Philippines December 23, 2016.
  • A National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) member unlocks the handcuffs on a Chinese national who was arrested after a raid in which methamphetamine, also known locally as 'shabu', worth S$97 million was seized, in San Juan city, metro Manila, Philippines December 23, 2016.
  • Chinese nationals, who were arrested after agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) seized S$97 million worth of methamphetamine, also known as 'shabu', during a raid, look on, in San Juan city, metro Manila, Philippines December 23, 2016.
  • A Chinese national, who was arrested after a raid in which methamphetamine, also known locally as 'shabu', worth S$97 million, was seized, crouches near a packet of the seized drug, in San Juan city, metro Manila, Philippines December 23, 2016.
  • Members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) inspect equipment used in the making of methamphetamine.
  • Members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) compile an inventory of methamphetamin.
  • A National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) member (R) stands guard next to Chinese nationals who were arrested after the raid.
  • Methamphetamine, also known locally as 'shabu', worth S$97 million that was seized during a raid is pictured in San Juan city, metro Manila, Philippines December 23, 2016.
  • Men arrested are seen in handcuffs.

Duterte, 71, has drawn global criticism including from the United States and the United Nations for a war on drugs that has killed over 5,000 people.

Duterte won last year's elections in a landslide on a promise to eradicate narcotics by killing tens of thousands of criminals.

He also vowed to roll out Davao -style law and order measures nationwide, including banning smoking in restaurants and hotels and curbing drinking in public places.

Duterte last month said he would issue an order to ban people from using firecrackers, limiting their use to community fireworks displays."The least that I can say or do is just to issue a warning that it's very, very dangerous," he said pending the order's release.

Duterte said he was concerned about children, who make up most of the victims.

Ubial said the trend continued this year, with a three-year-old suffering a hand injury at Cabanatuan in the centre of Luzon island.

The worst case involved a 15-year-old girl, who slipped into a coma after a stray bullet hit her head while she was watching a fireworks display in Manila's neighbouring district of Malabon."This is one of our saddest incidents," Ubial said."Even if it's now down to 350 (injuries), that is still a lot of misery."