Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has emphasized that making the Philippines a mercury-free country is a shared responsibility of the government, private sector, civil society and the general public.

“Each of us has a role to play, and with the Philippines’ upcoming ratification of the Minamata Convention, it is incumbent upon us to properly manage mercury and its wastes in an environmentally sound manner,” Cimatu said during the recent launch of the country’s National Action Plan (NAP) for the phase-out of mercury-containing products and wastes.

The Minamata Convention is the world’s first legally binding treaty to phase out mercury, a highly toxic substance that poses threats to the environment and human health.

The NAP was crafted under a project jointly implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Funded by the Swiss government, the project also assisted the Philippine government in the management of mercury-containing products with a life cycle approach in accordance with the Minamata and Basel Conventions.

A copy of the NAP was turned over to the DENR and it was received by the agency’s Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service Director Lourdes Wagan on behalf of Cimatu during a ceremony held last July 30 in Mandaluyong City.

“The NAP is a crucial and important document that will enable us to successfully carry out the elimination of mercury from consumer products and other materials utilized in the industry, greatly reducing the risk to human exposure and contamination of the environment,” Cimatu said in a speech delivered by Wagan.

The NAP is a product of collaboration among 10 government agencies, and provides a detailed 5-year full implementation document of the activities and actions that the government will undertake.

“The completion of the NAP likewise increases confidence in the country’s readiness for the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” Cimatu pointed out.

In 2013, the Philippines was one of the 128 countries that signed the Minamata convention, which regulates the use and trade of mercury.

The convention is named after the Japanese city where industrial emissions of the toxic substance caused a poisoning disease affecting thousands of people in the 1950s.

The Philippine Senate has yet to ratify the convention, which entered into force in August 2017.

Cimatu said that the DENR has “spearheaded the ratification process in consultation with the relevant government agencies and stakeholders.”

He also revealed that the ratification document is already endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Office of the President.

“We made the cleanup of Boracay and the rehabilitation of Manila Bay possible. Managing our mercury waste is also certainly possible with every one of us working together,” Cimatu said. ###