The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) - Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the implementing body of the project, held the National Launch of the Philippine Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA) Project on July 26, 2017.
The MIA Project is a multi-country project that is implemented in the Philippines, Pakistan, and Cambodia. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), with the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) as the implementing agency, financially supports the project.
The goals of the project are to 1) strengthen national decision-making toward the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and 2) build national capacities toward the implementation of future obligations.
Ms. Elvira Pausing, coordinator of the MIA Project, formally welcomed and opened the activity on behalf of Director Jacqueline Caancan of EMB. She explained that the Minamata Convention was a global treaty that highlighted the urgent need for the global community to control, and on some cases to prohibit the extraction, manufacture, use, trade, storage and disposal of mercury, mercury compounds, and products containing and contaminated with mercury in an attempt to minimize – if not eliminate – anthropogenic emissions and releases to various media that lead to environmental degradation and hazardous human exposure. She also stressed that this project was an integral part of our country’s efforts to protect human health and the environment from the negative impacts of mercury.
Speaking on behalf of Undersecretary Jonas Leones of DENR’s Planning, Policy and International Affairs, Forester Conrad Bravante Jr. of the Foreign- Assisted and Special Projects Service underscored the importance of joining the global community in dealing with the health and environmental issues from mercury and its uses. He expressed full support to the activities lined up for the preparation of the MIA Project in light of the Department’s thrust to endorse the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
Atty. Richard Gutierrez, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ban Toxics, cited primary metal production such as in the case of Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) to be the main source of mercury. He discussed the movement of mercury in the environment and the impacts of mercury to human health. Calling for the immediate ratification of the Minamata Convention, he believed that the country could actively negotiate the methods to address the issue and avoid becoming the dumping ground of waste mercury.
Engr. Teddy Monroy, MIA Project Consultant, showed the significant elements of the project, proposed outline of the report, project activities, and timelines for the output and milestones.
A number of local government officials from Palawan and Camarines Norte provided information on the current situation of the ASGM and contaminated mining areas in their jurisdiction, as well as the interventions and rehabilitation efforts. It was learned that fish and shellfish in the Palawan site still had high levels of mercury while the ones in Camarines Norte were deemed safe. Meanwhile, there were still areas with released mercury in soil that exceeded DENR standards. The assessment of mercury level in the Palawan Quicksilver Mines, Inc. site was suggested.
Members of the civil society and industry also reported their efforts for environmentally sound management of mercury and mercury wastes. BanToxics and EcoWaste Coalition, for instance, presented their research work and publication on prevention of mercury pollution. The International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology-Philippine Chapter had mercury-free dentistry trainings and on-going projects to minimize the use of dental amalgam. The Chamber of Cosmetics Industry of the Philippines, Inc. (CCIP) recommended to follow the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive on limits of heavy metals in the manufacture of cosmetic products and to comply with good manufacturing practices. (MIA Project/ PMU)