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PH and Other Asian Governments Urged to Work Doubly Hard to Ratify Mercury Treaty

Civil society groups exhorted Asian governments to ratify
the Minamata Convention on Mercury as environmental and health officials from
several countries converge in Pasay City for a three-day regional forum.
In a joint statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, the
Collaboration Center for Minamata Disease Victims and IPEN (a global NGO
network for a toxics-free future) called upon the participants of the “Regional
Forum on Environment and Health in A Southeast and East Asian Countries” to endorse
the rapid ratification of the mercury treaty and promote the early
implementation of activities, with full participation of public interest
groups, to prevent and reduce mercury pollution.
The Minamata Convention provides for controls and
reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury
is used, released or emitted.
To date, only three countries from Southeast and East
Asia have ratified the treaty.  These are
China, Japan and Mongolia.  The treaty,
which has been ratified by 32 countries, will enter into force 90 days after 50
states have ratified it.  The Philippines
has signed the treaty in 2013 but has yet to ratify it.
“We urge the forum participants to declare full support
for the accelerated ratification of the Minamata Convention for it to enter
into force.   We need 18 more countries
to put the treaty provisions into effect to protect human health and the
ecosystems from mercury pollution that can endanger communities near and far
from pollution sources,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste
Coalition.
“Our call towards the expedited ratification of the
mercury treaty will be in step with the goal of the forum, which is to create a
platform for national and regional action to enhance and safeguard health and
the environment and promote sustainable development,” she added.
Visiting advocate Yoichi Tani  from the Collaboration Center for Minamata
Disease Victims expressed his hope that more countries from Asia will ratify
the treaty named after Minamata, a city in Japan where severe health damage
affecting thousands of people occurred due to years of mercury poisoning from
industrial source. 
“As we have painfully experienced in Minamata, mercury
emissions and releases can gravely contaminate the ecosystems and seriously
harm public health, especially the health of vulnerable groups such as women
and children.  Action is needed on a
global scale to prevent Minamata disease from destroying lives and causing
terrible human sufferings.  This is why
it is important for governments in the region to ratify the treaty,” he said.
“All the governments at this forum have agreed that mercury poses a global
threat,” said Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Adviser of IPEN.
“Now it’s time to act on this knowledge by ratifying and fully implementing the
treaty.”

The groups further emphasized the importance for the
international community to apply the lessons from the Minamata mercury
poisoning tragedy.
As stated in the preamble of the Minamata Convention, parties “recogniz(e) the
substantial lessons of Minamata Disease, in particularly the serious health and
environmental effects resulting from the mercury pollution, and the need to
ensure proper management of mercury and the prevention of such events in the
future.”
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “mercury and its various
compounds have a range of serious health impacts, including brain and
neurological damage, especially among the young.“
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Additional Information:
The Regional Forum on Environment and Health in Southeast and East Asian
Countries is a 14-country initiative comprised of ten Southeast (Brunei
Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia,
Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam) and four East Asian
countries (China, Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea).
http://www.environment-health.asia/rfeh/about/en/index.html
The Regional Forum provides a venue for sharing knowledge
and experiences, improving policy and regulatory frameworks and promoting
policy dialogue to implement integrated strategies on environment and health.
The Fourth Ministerial Regional Forum will be hosted by the Philippines in
October 2016.  The Forum’s Vision: Health
and environment at the centre of development. 
The  Forum’s Goal: Create a
platform for national and regional action to enhance and safeguard health and
the environment and promote sustainable development.