DENR campaigns for adoption of treaty on mercury emissions

Posted on June 13, 2016

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) expressed hope that the next administration would ratify the international treaty regulating the use and trade of mercury, a highly toxic substance that poses threats to human health and the environment.

An artisan holds a piece of mercury containing gold on June 3, 2007 in El Ingenio, Peru, 420 kms south of Lima. -- AFP
“The ratification will seal the country’s firm commitment to protect its people and the environment from toxic and even deadly effects of mercury,” said DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje in a statement released by the agency.

The DENR has released a Ratification Dossier on the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which the Philippines adopted in October 2013. It will be used as reference for Senate in assessing the capability of the Philippines in adopting the treaty on which its ratification is hinged.

The Minamata Convention Treaty, which will take effect 90 days after ratification by at least 50 countries, maps out measures to curb environmental and health damage such as the Minamata disease, which is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning.

The treaty aims to address eight major sources and uses of mercury, namely: supply sources and trade; mercury-added products; artisanal and small-scale gold mining; emissions and releases; interim storage of non-waste mercury; mercury wastes and contaminated sites; mercury cell chlor-alkali production; and mercury air transport and fate.

In the Philippines, the use of mercury and mercury compounds is limited as directed by the DENR Administrative Order No. 1997-38 or the Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds.

Locals only make use of the toxic substance on pharmaceuticals, dental amalgam, mining, electrical apparatus design and management, and, paint manufacturing, among others.

The 24-member Senate is the lone government body tasked to scrutinize and endorse foreign treaties for ratification. The votes of at least 16 senators or two-thirds of the body give the go-signal for a foreign agreement to be ratified. -- Janina C. Lim