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PIA Press Release

P-Noy should do an Obama

Groups urge new President-elect to do more than Obama on mercury

Davao City (25 June) -- Twenty days before the 2008 US Presidential election, then US President George W. Bush signed into law the Mercury Export Ban of 2008 introduced by then junior Sen. Barack Obama.

"P-Noy may do more by signing an EO (executive order) completely banning mercury in the Philippines, particularly mercury in health care and other unsustainable uses of mercury," says Faye Ferrer, Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) Program Officer for Mercury in Health Care. "But the question is, will he do more?"

sked what prompted then Senator Obama to sponsor the bill, "Exposure to mercury leads to serious developmental problems in children as well as problems affecting vision, motor skills, blood pressure, and fertility in adults…. Despite our country's (United States) improved efforts to contain and collect mercury over the years, we remain one of the world's leading exporters of this dangerous product, so I am proud this bill will finally ban mercury exports."

Ferrer agrees, "The dangers of mercury have been established. Time and again, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed that there is no safe level of mercury exposure of humans. Our Health department has likewise paved the way for mercury phase-out with Administrative Order 21 mandating the gradual phase-out of mercury-containing devices in all Philippine health care facilities and institutions."

"Just like in smoking, we wonder, will P-Noy heed Obama's advice?" asked Ferrer.

It may be recalled that when Obama called-up to congratulate the new President-elect, among the things mentioned in their conversation was their common addiction to smoking. Fortunately for the Americans, Obama, who is obviously concerned with several environmental health issues, had paved the way for mercury-free society and has likewise stopped smoking.

The US Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008, prohibits the transfer of elemental mercury by federal agencies, bans U.S. export of elemental mercury by 2013, and requires the Department of Energy to designate and manage an elemental mercury long-term disposal facility.

"P-Noy can definitely make this country a mercury-free Philippines with an EO," Ferrer added. "Our new President needs to see that the calls to stop smoking and ban mercury are not personal attacks to him. Both issues impact his health and people's health and his immediate environment and everyone's environment," said Ferrer.

Likewise, Ban Toxics an environmental justice group supported the call saying if Aquino is serious in addressing the problems of the nation, he should do an Obama, and finally put an end to mercury importation in the country.

"The Philippines does not produce mercury. Toxic mercury is traded to us from foreign sources. Banning the imports of mercury, particularly mercury destined for sectors that are phasing it out and those engaged in unsustainable uses, is the logical and safest thing to do," stated Atty. Richard Gutierrez, Executive Director of Ban Toxics.

"With an EO, P-Noy can also quickly address the removal of this toxin in schools, where the Philippines has experienced its most documented mercury spill ever," says Gutierrez.

In 2006, a school in Las Pinas had to be cleaned-up for mercury spill. Twenty-four students wound in the hospital as confirmed cases of mercury poisoning.

"The effects of mercury on the brain and nervous system are incurable and permanent. We do not want another mercury spill to happen and no parent would wish this misfortune upon any child," added Gutierrez.

"President-elect Aquino may do more than Obama thru an immediate ban of mercury importation into our country," Ferrer expressed. "The US banned its mercury exports 20 days before Obama even took office. We are confident that P-Noy can do more by doing this within his first 20 days or less in office," Ferrer optimistically said. (PIA) [top]

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