The government has ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury on July 8, the first legally binding treaty to phase out mercury, which is a highly toxic substance that poses threats to the environment and human health.
The convention provides a comprehensive policy to address mercury emissions on soil, water, and the atmosphere, phase out mercury use in products and processes, and the regulation of the informality of the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector (ASGM).
It also addresses the storage and disposal of the chemical.
Environmental justice advocate Ban Toxics Executive Director Reynaldo San Juan lauded the government for taking the first step in the fight against mercury.
“Mercury is a global problem, and by joining the community of nations in addressing the mercury scourge, the Philippines improves its chances in fighting off this deadly toxin,” San Juan said.
The Philippines, which is among the 128 countries which signed the Minamata Convention in 2013, is the 123rd country to ratify the treaty.
The mercury treaty entered into force in August 2017.
According to Ban Toxics, mercury is a toxic chemical with negative effects on both human health and the environment and is listed by the World Health Organization as one of their top chemicals of major health concern.
It further pointed out that exposure to mercury may cause harmful effects on the nervous, digestive, and immune systems and may also be fatal.
The primary sources of human exposure to mercury are from dental amalgams, mercury-laden hospital devices, and gold mining activities.
Ban Toxics has been pushing the government to act against mercury use in the country since 2007.
The group praised the government for taking concrete steps to eliminate mercury use in the country.
Last May, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III signed Administrative Order No. 2020-0020, effectively phasing out mercury use in dental restorative procedures.
“Our fight against mercury does not end here. The only way we can ensure the safety of the Filipinos, especially the future generations, against mercury is by adapting the Minamata Convention into our local laws and implementing it,” San Juan said.
“We look forward to the quick action of President Duterte against mercury, now that the Philippines is a party to the Minamata Convention,” he added.