Toxic pollution prevention advocates believed that President Rodrigo Duterte's ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a multilateral environmental agreement, will mean a feather in his cap.
Thony Dizon of the toxics watch group EcoWaste Coalition made this observation after discussing this morning the progress of the treaty's ratification with Emmanuelita Mendoza, Officer in Chairge, Chemical Management Section, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). Also joining the meeting were visiting Japanese nationals Hideo Ikoma and Yoichi Tani from the Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society.
“We note that the Department of Health and the Bureau of Customs have already submitted their respective Certificates of Concurrence, which are required from concerned agencies to get the process moving,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“We hope other agencies would be able to reaffirm their agreement with the treaty ratification by President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of the first Conference of Parties slated in Geneva in September 2017,” he added.
“As Chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2017, the Philippine ratification of the Minamata Convention this year will be a feather in President Duterte’s cap that can hopefully influence other member states to do the same,” he said.
To date, none of the ASEAN member governments have ratified the treaty. Thirty-five countries have so far ratified it, including China, Japan and USA. Fifty ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.
As reported by the DENR, the DOH submitted their Certificate of Concurrence on December 28, 2016 and the BOC submitted theirs on January 5, 2017.
Other government offices have yet to re-submit the required certificates signed by their new department secretaries or agency heads, including the Departments of Energy, Science and Technology and Trade and Industry, the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority and the Occupational Safety and Health Center
As per Executive Order 459, Series of 1997, the Department of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to the endorsement by the concerned agency, shall transmit the treaty to the President of the Philippines for his ratification. The DFA shall then submit the treaty to the Senate of the Philippines for concurrence in the ratification by the President.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau with the assistance from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the Swiss Confederation has already prepared a “Ratification Dossier,” which, among other things, includes a concise plan of priority areas and actions related to mercury management in the Philippines.
According to the Ratification Dossier, “an annual estimate of 300 tons of mercury is released to the environment in the Philippines. By implementing restrictions on the importation and use of mercury and mercury-containing products, the Convention will reduce the amount of mercury consumption in the country, and therefore, minimize their subsequent release and adverse effects to the environment.”
“Despite the economic cost to comply with the provisions of the Convention, the long-term benefits of becoming a Party far outweigh the disadvantages,” the Dossier pointed out.
Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
DENR Administrative Order 1997-38, or the Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds, is undergoing amendment to make it in sync with the Minamata Convention, particularly on the phase-down of dental amalgam and other treaty requirements.