By Sylvia A. Khu
With the financial assistance from the Department of Science and Technology Regional Office (DOST-X), some 26 analytical laboratories from seventeen academic institutions, government agencies, and food and industrial companies located at the Cagayan-Iligan Corridor formed the Northern Mindanao Laboratory Consortium, Inc. now famously known as NorMin LABCON.
NorMin LABCON is composed of analytical laboratories coming from academic institutions: Central Mindanao University, Mindanao State University-Naawan, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, and Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan; government agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Department of Science and Technology; and private laboratories: Asia Brewery, Inc., Busco Sugar Milling Co., Inc., Cagayan de Oro Water District, Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc., Del Monte Philippines, Inc., Nestle Philippines, Inc., Pilipinas Kao, Inc., Philippine Sinter Corporation, and RI Chemicals, Inc.
The consortium established with a mission to make it a venue for the continuous growth and development of member laboratories. It is committed to provide and implement quality services through continuous upgrading of facilities and capabilities of each member and help maintain a healthy environment for the Filipino people and for future generations through waste minimization, recycling of chemicals and proper waste disposal.
Furthermore, the consortium has a vision of creating an internationally competent testing and metrological laboratories geared towards sustainable development. With this vision in mind, since 1998, NorMin LABCON has sponsored a number of training-workshops, seminars and various activities.
NorMin LABCON started with a seminar on ISO Guide 25 in 1998. One year after, the consortium produced a brochure of the founding members which featured the capabilities of the member laboratories. This brochure was very helpful because it provided a network of connection among member institutions on the conduct of various physical and chemical analyses.
In 2001, the consortium became a foundation when it was officially registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and was then officially named as Northern Mindanao Laboratory Consortium Foundation, Inc. In the same year, a seminar-workshop on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) was organized which was well participated by laboratories in Northern Mindanao, even those which were not members. Four years after, a seminar-workshop on Method Validation and Measurement Uncertainty, in conformance with PNS ISO/IEC 17025:2000, was successfully organized. This actually gave laboratories in the region the knowledge in preparation for their application for laboratory accreditation. This is the same year that the Regional Standards and Testing Laboratories (RSTL) of DOST-X was granted the PNS ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for chemical and microbiological testing, the first in the region and the first among DOST regional laboratories. By 2006, the consortium continued giving seminar-workshop, this time on Calibration.
The NorMin LABCON family expanded as it accepted new members in 2008, Liceo de Cagayan University and Rio Verde Water Consortium, Inc. Having Rio Verde as a new member, an educational tour was conducted at its Water Treatment Plant in Baungon, Bukidnon. The year 2009 was a productive year for the consortium. It started with a three-day training-workshop which covered calibration of laboratory balances and volumetric ware, measurement uncertainty, laboratory safety and the preparation of Material Safety Data Sheet. This training-workshop actually had experts from the Department of Science and Technology Region 7 as resource speakers.
Few months later, a seminar on Introduction to ISO Accreditation was conducted which was co-sponsored by DOST-X and was funded by DOST-Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI). NorMin LABCON also prepared and submitted a proposal to DOST-Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development (PCIERD) on the preparation of reference material and organizing a proficiency testing for inter-laboratory comparison among testing laboratories in the region. Although the proposal was denied, the consortium took it as a challenge to come up with more milestone activities to enhance competitiveness of its member laboratories.
The consortium became dormant for several years, but it did make a big come back in 2013 when it brought an expert from Eurachem to the Philippines. With the help of Admer Rey C. Dablio, a licensed chemist, an on-the-job trainee at DOST-X in 2009 and was a volunteer of the consortium in the same year, and a close contact of Lorens Peter Sibbesen of Eurachem, the training-workshops on Measurement Uncertainty of Analytical Results and Internal Quality Control in the Analytical Laboratory were fully materialized. Sibbesen is the current Chairman of the Method Validation Working Group within Eurachem, Secretary of EUROLAB Denmark, and owner of Denmark’s LAB Quality International. Sibbesen and Dablio were contacts since 2012.
The training-workshops, which were both held at Cagayan de Oro City, were the first training-workshops organized by NorMin LABCON which welcomed participants not only coming from Mindanao, but from various laboratories in the country. In his message, DOST-10 regional director Alfonso Alamban said that the activity aims at improving the capacities of testing and analytical laboratories in the Philippines. “Our country wants to be ready for ASEAN economic integration come 2015. We want to see a more competent science and technology services and in tackling issues on compliance to worldwide product standard and product safety,” Alamban stressed. Sibbesen said that it was the first time that training-workshops with a speaker from Eurachem were organized in the Philippines and even in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, he shared that he has conducted hundreds of training-workshops all over the world and he has noted that the one conducted in Cagayan de Oro City was the most organized. He was also amazed at the Filipino culture and hospitality. It was his first time to visit the Philippines.
Just recently, during the 25th year anniversary celebration of Eurachem on 19-21 May 2014 at Lisbon, Portugal, wherein the Philippines sent chemist representatives coming from DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI), Sibbesen still acknowledged the big success of the training-workshops held at Cagayan de Oro City and he looks forward to more in the Philippines. Also, in the recent communication of Dablio with Sibbesen and Bertil Magnusson, the current President of Eurachem, they are looking forward to another set of training in the country for 2014 and 2015.
For the year 2014, NorMin LABCON continued its service to laboratories in the country as it organized a training-workshop on Chemical Safety and Security on 12-14 May 2014. This was a well-participated and very productive training-workshop as participants were able to learn many inputs from resource persons who completed Chemical Safety and Security Officer training under the US Sandia National Laboratories of the Department of State. NorMin LABCON currently conducts survey on the training needs of analytical laboratories in the country. This survey, which will end by 31 May 2014, will give the consortium an idea of what will be the next set of training that NorMin LABCON will organize for 2014 and 2015, especially the training in partnership with experts from Eurachem.
The activities conducted by the consortium are meters of NorMin LABCON’s mileage based on its mission and vision. The consortium is currently headed by Rio Verde Water Consortium, Inc. as the President of the Board of Trustees, DOST-X as the Vice-President and Liceo de Cagayan University as the Treasurer. NorMin LABCON has also been strong since it was established through the dynamic teamwork by the Technical Working Group headed by Lina G. Kwong, Ph.D. of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan and composed of specialists from DOST-X: Engr. Romela N. Ratilla, D.P.A., Sylvia A. Khu, M.P.A. and Admer Rey C. Dablio.
In a speech by Engr. Joffrey E. Hapitan, NorMin LABCON’s President of the Board of Trustees and Senior Vice-President for operations of Rio Verde, he said that “Our desire to improve our capabilities is continually burning. At this stage, it is best to equip ourselves with knowledge on the general requirements for the competence to carry out tests and calibrations. NorMin LABCON will continue to achieve its mission and vision.”