BULACAN, Philippines – The hut with a corrugated metal roof that sits in a field in rural Bulacan province might look simple, but the workers were on Friday maintaining a cracking business.
The small group of laborers was putting together firecrackers in their makeshift workshop, one of hundreds of such buildings across the province that has for decades been the powerhouse of the Philippines’ firecracker manufacturing industry.
Bulacan, which lies just to the north of Manila, is home to numerous firecracker and fireworks makers including legitimate manufacturers, large-scale importers and distributors, and small-scale makers, some of whom are not registered.
Those who aren’t fully legitimate operate discretely to avoid government oversight and chose to set up shop in more remote areas.
The countryside is a preferred destination for both legitimate and underground firecracker manufacturers because the dangers of handling the small explosives and their ingredients means the work is best done away from populated areas.
In the work hut seen by epa, a laborer, his fingers stained black from stuffing paper tubes with combustible powder, inserts a red wick into the tube before sealing it up with a type of glue.
The completed firecracker will soon join hundreds of others when they’re connected together in a long, belt-like string.
The workers will later deliver the firecrackers to registered vendors in the province, who in turn sell the pyrotechnics from their shops and stalls across Bulacan.
The makers wouldn’t reveal to epa how much they sell their wares for, nor the profit they can make.
One man did explain that since President Rodrigo Duterte imposed stricter rules regulating pyrotechnics, his profits have declined by about 30 percent.
A factor behind stiffer government regulation is safety, something the workers in this rural workshop weren’t terribly concerned with as they didn’t wear protective suits, gloves or goggles and some only occasionally put cloth masks over their faces.
Following an explosion that killed four people at a fireworks stall in Bocaue, southern Bulacan last year, Duterte’s government imposed Executive Order 28 “Providing for the Regulation and Control of the Use of Firecrackers and other Pyrotechnic Devices,” according to the Manila Times newspaper.
The order calls for local governments to designate community fireworks display areas and regulates the manufacture of firecrackers.
As the festive Christmas and New Year season approaches in the Philippines, small-scale firecracker makers can at least look forward to reaping small bangs of profits, even though explosive windfalls might be hard to come by.