Rain-drenched members of the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol today swept through Quiapo, Santa Cruz and Binondo districts in Manila for a timely event dubbed as the “e-Jeep Toxics Tour vs. Mercury Pollution.”
The anti-toxic activists paraded through the busy commercial area by foot and in two electric-powered jeepneys or “e-Jeep” to increase public awareness and vigilance against exposure to mercury, a toxic substance of global concern, in processes, products and wastes.
The event came on the heels of two infamous product safety scandals last week involving the EcoWaste Coalition’s discovery of mercury up to 60,800 parts per million in 13 skin whitening products bought from Chinese drug stores and cosmetics retailers in Manila and Makati, and the recall in China of mercury-tainted Quan You milk products.
It was also held on the eve of the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC4) on June 27 to July 2 in Uruguay for the crafting a globally-binding agreement that will protect public health and the environment from mercury pollution.
“We are here to inform and warn our people about the real and present danger of mercury pollution due to human activities that are damaging the food supply and the ecosystems and causing harm to public health,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
Human activities that release mercury into the environment are many and include coal combustion, artisanal and small-scale as well as large-scale mining, metal refining, the production, consumption and disposal of mercury-containing products and devices, waste disposal in dumps, landfills, incinerators and cement kilns, cremation and pollution from contaminated sites.
“To protect human health, wildlife and the environment from mercury, we call for strong global and national measures that will control industrial processes using or releasing mercury in air, water and soil, impose international ban on mercury supply and trade, phase out products and devices containing mercury, clean up contaminated sites and ensure environmentally-sound management of mercury-containing wastes to prevent them from entering the industrial, medical and industrial waste streams,” he added.
Prior to the “e-Jeep Toxics Tour,” the EcoWaste Coalition wrote to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) stressing the need for a strong and adequately-funded mercury treaty, which, among others, should provide for mandatory National Implementation Plans to help parties such as the Philippines in coming up with robust national inventories of mercury sources and releases and their corresponding action plans.
The group first assembled in front of the Quiapo Church at the historic Plaza Miranda where youth performers from Green Stage Filipinas-Maskara did a “sabayang bigkas” (speech choir) about the ill effects of mercury exposure and presented a puppet called “Mercury Contaminator.”
The group also unveiled a 20-meter blue and orange cloth to honor the victims of the tragic mercury poisoning in Minamata, Japan, where the blue depicts the coastal villages of Minamata and the orange depicts the signs warning villagers about the dangerous levels of mercury in the water.
Also in Quiapo, the group set up an “on-the-spot” screening of consumer products using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer at no cost to consumers who had their purchases like cosmetics tested for mercury and other toxic metals.
The group then proceeded to Carriedo St., Rizal Ave., Bustos St., Dasmariñas St., Quintin Paredes St., Reina Regente St., Felipe Dos St., Norberto Ty St.,, passing by iconic churches, shopping malls and stores in the area and winding up in Ongpin St., the heart of Chinatown.
During the three-hour "e-Jeep Toxics Tour," the AlerToxic Patrollers distributed information leaflets about mercury to buyers, sellers and commuters and, aided by a loud mobile sound system, cautioned people against mercury exposure and emphasized the need for precautionary action to avoid poisoning and ill health.
The EcoWaste Coalition-led event drew participants from Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Green Stage Filipinas-Maskara, Zero Waste Philippines and the Food and Drug Administration.