The recent deposit of the instrument of ratification, the Philippines became the 123rd country to join the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the world’s first legally binding treaty to phase out mercury.
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 the top chemicals of major health concern. The WHO 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.
The Convention is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from man-made emissions of mercury and mercury compounds. It provides a comprehensive policy to address mercury emissions to soil, water and the atmosphere, phase out mercury use in products and processes, and regulate the informality of the artisanal and small scale gold mining sector. It also addresses the storage and disposal of the toxic chemical.
By ratifying the Convention, the Philippines takes a significant step in protecting its people from the harmful effects of mercury. Ensuring compliance with the policies and regulations meant to protect humans and the environment will be the next challenge, especially in this country where laws and conventions are often forgotten until noticeable damage has been inflicted on either the population or the environment.
Alternatives to mercury, stringent preventive measures, heavy penalties and consistent enforcement will help us reduce exposure to that toxic substance. The industries and sectors that continue to use it should work closely with the government moving forward in order to review current practices and put in place the necessary policies that can further protect Filipinos and their environment from toxic substances like mercury.*