Philippines urged to ratify international treaty on mercury

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is urged to ratify an international treaty to allow the country to be free from mercury, a highly toxic substance that poses threats to the environment and human health.

Environmental justice group Ban Toxics has called on the government to ratify the Minamata Convention to protect the people and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury exposure.

The Minamata Convention is the world’s first legally binding treaty to phase out mercury with the Philippines being one of the 128 countries that signed the convention, which regulates the use and trade of mercury.

It is designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

“The Duterte administration must follow through on its promise to protect the health of every Filipino by ratifying the Minamata Convention. This will ensure that we are protected from the dangerous effects of mercury, especially from those that are coming from human activities,” Ban Toxics executive director Reynaldo San Juan said.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the instrument for the ratification of the Minamata Convention was already transmitted to the Office of the President awaiting signature.

The Convention came into force in August 2017.

Human activity contributes to the largest portion of mercury release. Every year, as much as 9,000 metric tons of mercury are released into the atmosphere, in water and on land.

The largest source of mercury emissions is artisanal and small-scale gold mining followed closely by coal combustion, non-ferrous metal production and cement production.

Based on the Philippine Minamata initial assessment report, the primary anthropogenic sources of mercury in the country is the extraction and use of energy sources.

This is followed by the production of primary or virgin metal, which includes mining and gold processing, and the production of other minerals and materials with mercury impurities.

At least five bodies of water in Luzon and Mindanao and several mining sites all over the country have rising levels of mercury.

This include Manila Bay, Meycauayan River in Bulacan, Mambulao Bay in Camarines Norte, Lumanggang Creek and Naboc River in Davao, the abandoned Palawan Quicksilver Mines, Mabuhay Vinyl Corp. in Iligan City, a chlor-alkali producer, and mining and gold processing sites in Camarines Norte and Masbate.

The World Health Organization has warned that mercury exposure can damage the nervous, digestive, respiratory, endocrine and immune systems.

It could also lead to impaired vision and hearing, cause paralysis, affect the development of the fetus, and cause developmental delays in children.

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