DOST pushes for modernization of national measurement system

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is pushing for the swift passage of the proposed Modernized National Measurement System Act to bring the outdated measurement infrastructure system into the digital age and enhance Philippine competitiveness.

Ahdrian Camilo Gernale of the DOST’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) said in recent webinar that Republic Act No. 9236, also known as the “National Metrology Act of 2003” which created the National Measurement Infrastructure System for Standards and Measurements, is no longer suitable today.

Gernale said that the system needs to be modernized; otherwise, the country may soon face challenges in building trust and confidence in its metrology system and standards, affecting Philippine export competitiveness in particular.

In the Industry 4.0 era, more technologies and industries are utilizing measurement data derived from sensor-based decisions and predictions, artificial intelligence and modern measuring instruments, said Gernale in the ITDI online forum organized May 24 to celebrate World Metrology Day.

Moreover, several laws and policies in the Philippines depend on accurate measurement in the enforcement of rules and sanctions. These include the Dangerous Drugs Act, the pollution control campaign, the anti-overspeeding drive, the Consumer Act, and the newly minted Timbangan ng Bayan.

He added that ITDI’s National Metrology Laboratory, being at the division level only, has no such capacity or mandate to provide the data required by these agencies.

This is because of lack of government support and funding for metrology development as compared to the country’s neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have all been operating their designated National Metrology Institutes (NMIs) for years already, Gernale said.

This weak funding “affects our country’s calibration and measurement capabilities, which equates to a higher cost of exporting products and eventually becoming less competitive in the international market,” he stated.

And as the country continues to neglect the need to modernize the national measurement system, the government loses an estimated P240 million annually for rice tariff alone due to inaccurate measurement, Gernale said.

In addition, an estimated P10 million in government revenue is lost due to poor market surveillance and enforcement of penalties in the regulation of measuring instruments such as the timbangan, fuel dispensers and others.

Gernale said DOST has proposed the passage of the Modernized National Measurement System Act to address these issues and challenges. The bill seeks to facilitate the development of scientific and technical knowledge by providing a modernized National Measurement System that will ensure the integrity of measurements in the country, meet regional and international requirements, and provide support for the competitiveness of Philippine products and services.

The National Measurement System should cover the following: legal units of measurement, national measurement standards, legal metrological controls, metrological traceability, registration of regulated measuring instruments, and accreditation.

The bill likewise seeks to institutionalize the NMI, constitute the National Metrology Board, establish the national measurement of the Philippines, merge the DOST regional metrology labs and enhance and build up capacity.

At present, there are several bills on overhauling the national measurement system that are filed in Congress, eight of these in the House of Representatives and two in the Upper House, Gernale said.

Earlier this year, DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña also asked the legislative branch to pass the proposed Modernized National Measurement System Act.

“As a member of the international community, we have a role to play in making sure that the measurements done here in the Philippines are on the same level of correctness as that with other countries. This is a way of showing our competence in producing reliable measurement results that directly affect the quality of products we export to foreign markets,” de la Peña told local media in February.

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