A local green coalition prodded key energy players to support the country’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury ahead of the observance of the Earth Day this Friday.
In separate letters sent to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Zenaida Monsada and to Philippine Lighting Industry Association (PLIA) President Jesus Pineda, Jr., the EcoWaste Coalition urged both to support the treaty, which seeks to protect human health and the environment from toxic mercury.
Signed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in October 2013, the treaty intends to reduce global mercury pollution by reducing mercury supply and trade, phasing out or phasing down mercury-containing products and by controlling mercury emissions and releases.
While most agencies have provided the DENR with their respective certificates of concurrence, the DOE has yet to express its agreement with the move to get the treaty ratified, the group noted.
“DOE’s failure to issue its certificate of concurrence is slowing down DENR’s initiative to have the treaty ratified and subsequently concurred to by the Senate,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Knowing DOE’s efforts to address mercury pollution, particularly from the improper disposal of busted fluorescent lamps, we see no reason for the department to hold back its support for the treaty ratification,” she said.
“The safe management of used fluorescent lamps is very important as these lamps can release significant amounts of mercury (including inhalable hazardous mercury vapor) when the bulb is broken, thrown in regular trash bins or disposed of in landfills or incinerators,” she pointed out.
The group noted that DOE issued a Joint Administrative Order JAO No. 2013-09-2001 with DENR establishing extended producer responsibility for mercury-containing lamps, as well as piloted a lamp waste recycling facility with mercury recovery.
The group clarified to both the DOE and the PLIA that the mercury treaty does not entirely ban mercury-containing lighting products, but seeks to phase out and ban those containing excess mercury.
Specifically, Article 4 of the treaty provides for the phase-out by 2020 of the following lamp types above a certain limit of mercury: compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) equal to or less than 30 watts containing more than 5 mg mercury per bulb, linear fluorescent bulbs - triband lamps less than 60 watts and containing greater than 5 mg mercury, halophosphate lamps less than 40 watts and containing greater than 10 mg mercury, high pressure mercury vapor lamps, mercury in a variety of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) and external electrode fluorescent lamps (EEFL).
“As our country does not manufacture mercury-containing lamps, but relies solely on imported finished products, we believe fluorescent lamp importers and distributors should have no problem asking their suppliers for products that meet the teary requirements,” Lucero said.
“The local lighting industry should have no difficulty sourcing compliant products since all well-meaning lamp manufacturers who would like to stay in business are expected to follow the treaty provisions,” she said.
“In fact, leading lighting companies are not only reducing the mercury content in fluorescent lamps, but also expanding the production of energy- efficient lamps containing no mercury such as light-emitting diode (LED) lights,” she added.
Twenty-five countries have so far ratified the treaty, which requires at least 50 ratifications to enter into force.