By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Philippines is set to release its initial assessment of mercury pollution in the country in preparation for its ratification and implementation of the Minamata Convention, the world’s first legally binding treaty to phase out the highly toxic substance.
The country’s Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA) report was prepared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) under a project financially supported by the Global Environment Facility.
“This report will enable us to determine the national requirements and needs for the ratification of the Minamata Convention and define national priorities for implementation of the treaty,” DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said.
Being a party to the Minamata Convention, the Philippines undertook the assessment to understand the existing institutional and legal frameworks on mercury management, sources of mercury management, sources of mercury releases, the gaps that need to be filled, and actions required to ensure an effective implementation of the convention.
Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is highly toxic metallic substance that can damage the brain, lungs, kidneys and heart; and can cause irreversible neurological damage that can lead to decreased intelligence and increased violent behavior.
For health and environmental reasons, global efforts are being made to reduce the use and release of mercury.
In 2013, the Philippines was one of the 128 countries that signed the Minamata Convention, which regulates the use and trade of mercury, a highly toxic substance that poses threats to human health and the environment.
The convention is named after the Japanese city where industrial emissions of the toxic substance caused a poisoning disease affecting thousands of people in the 1950s.
The Philippines has yet to ratify the convention, which entered into force in August 2017.
Once ratified, the Philippines can access technical and financial support from multilateral funds for the implementation of the convention and the management of mercury use and waste in the country.
Prior to signing the Minamata Convention, the country had already put in place regulatory policies against mercury, including Republic Act (RA) 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990.