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By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap

 

THE Yuletide season is supposed to be a time for joyous celebrations and brisk business but lantern makers and firecracker makers are not exactly in a joyful mood.

 

Danilo Henson, president of the Arevalo Firecracker Makers Association, said there has been a major slowdown in firecracker sales.

 

“In previous years, retailers have been buying from us as early as October. But today it’s already December but the movement of goods is very slow and sales are very low. Gamay-gamay lang baklanay,” Henson said.

 

Henson said the slowdown could affect production of pyrotechnics “because the capital of manufacturers is dependent on their sales to retailers.”

 

Arevalo firecracker makers usually start manufacturing their stocks June or July but this year their production period began only in November due to lack of capital and materials.

 

This is the reason firecracker manufacturers put up a cooperative to help finance their members.

 

Another factor that affected the production and sale of Arevalo firecrackers is the lack of gunpowder supply in the market after the Chinese government regulated the sale of the item prior and during the August 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

 

Henson said the Chinese tightened the gunpowder supply to prevent terrorists and criminals from making bombing operations during the international sports spectacle.

 

“Because of low supply, gunpowder is expensive and not all of us can afford because most manufacturers are household based,” Henson said.

 

The entry of pyrotechnics made in Bocaue, Bulacan and China is also eating part of the market once enjoyed by Arevalo firecracker makers.

 

But Henson said they continue to innovate their products to keep up with the quality of “imported” firecrackers.

 

SAFETY ISSUES

 

Henson admits that most firecracker makers operate on a guerilla-type basis due to lack of government permits.

 

Oftentimes, these underground manufacturers are the cause of fatal explosions that kill their own workers and neighbors.

 

Henson said they are now pushing for the establishment of a manufacturing complex away from residential areas to avoid accidents.

 

The complex will be designed according to specifications provided by the PNP Firearms and Explosive Division and the Iloilo City government.

 

As regards the employment of minors, Henson said they are trying to convince their members to make their children stay in school instead of working in the factory.

 

“But we cannot avoid that some manufacturers will employ their children because this is basically a household industry. But we remind them not to let the children pack firecrackers or mix gunpowder which are dangerous part of our work. Maybe they can let their children cut the wrapping materials which is safer,” he said.

 

DIMMER SALES

 

Ilonggo parol or lantern makers also noted a decline in their sales this Christmas season.

 

Mas daku-daku sang una amon nga benta (Sales were much bigger previously),” said Rolyn Lindong of Aldren’s Parol Maker along Luna Street, La Paz, Iloilo City.

 

He said compared to the past three to five years, this year’s sales has not surpassed the profit the store made previously. 

 

Lindong cited the effects of typhoon Frank and the financial global crisis as to why Ilonggo consumers are on tight budget these days.

 

Unahon na ya nila ang pang adlaw-adlaw nila nga kinahanglanon (They will always prioritize their daily needs),” Lindong added.

 

With each lantern sold at P3,500, he said an Ilonggo consumer would rather spend the money for food instead of buying a four-foot parol.

 

Still, their sales are enough to sustain their three-month operation which began September.

 

He said Aldren’s biggest customer this year was the Atrium, which purchased 24 pieces of its four-foot parol.  The 24 colorful Filipino lanterns are currently on display inside the shopping arcade.

 

Lindong is hoping to dispose the remaining 20+ pieces of 4-feet parol before Wednesday next week.

 

Stores selling Christmas decorations and Christmas lights along J.M. Basa St. also noted big dip in sales this Yuletide season.

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