Upholding the Chemistry Profession One Chemical Laboratory at a Time

Maria Kristina Dabi
Staff at the Professional Regulation Commission

Back in 2018, I was asked by Dir. Atty. Maria Liza M. Hernandez to assist the Professional Regulatory Board of Chemistry composed of Hon. Adoracion P. Resurreccion, Hon. Soledad S. Castañeda, and Hon. Ma. Theresa C. Cayton in the inspection and monitoring of applicants for the Certificate of Authority to Operate Chemical Laboratory (CATO). It was the year when the grace period set by the Republic Act 10657, otherwise known as the Chemistry Profession Act, ended. That year, the Commission received a bulk of applications from all over the Philippines.

From 2018 to 2020, I had the honor of working closely with the Board of Chemistry, from determining the schedule of inspection and preparing its logistics to assisting the Board in the inspection and monitoring. Looking back, working with these outstanding, intelligent, caring, and inspiring women was a privilege. I have witnessed how the Board of Chemistry worked from the grassroots to ensure the maintenance of high professional, ethical, and technical standards and safeguard the welfare of its professionals.  

You may wonder, what is the importance of the Certificate of Authority to Operate Chemical Laboratories? Who will benefit from it? Why is it vital to secure such?

In 2017, to guarantee that establishments and institutions are adequately guided by this directive, the Board of Chemistry issued Resolution No. 02, or the “Rules and Regulations Implementing Section 35 of the Chemistry Profession Act on the Issuance of Certificates of Authority to Operate Chemical Laboratories and other Related Establishments.” In this resolution, the Board set standards that a chemical laboratory must meet to ensure that its employed Chemists and Chemical Technicians are competent and that their safety and well-being are taken care of.

Hon. Resurreccion and Hon. Cayton together with the Chemists of Petron Bataan in 2019.

There are eight criteria that the Board evaluates in a Chemical Laboratory, all these are based on the provisions in the Chemistry Law and its IRR. First, the Board checks for the sufficiency of the laboratory’s personal protective equipment and safety devices. Second, the Board inspects for adequacy of space, proper storage of chemicals, and proper waste disposal. The Board sees to it that the Chemists and Chemical Technicians know Their hazardous chemical wastes and advises them to look for ways to reduce them. The Board also recommends verifying and inspecting the 3rd party treaters to ensure that the chemical wastes the establishment or institution sent is appropriately handled and treated. The third measure the Board checks into is the adequacy of facilities and instruments used for chemical testing. The fourth standard is the availability of the Safety Manual and its proper communication to the employees. The Board also looks into the qualifications and skills of the professionals and sees to it that the head of the chemical laboratory is a registered chemist and that all its Chemists and Chemical Technicians are active members of the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP). In addition, the Board also checks that the Chemist signs the Certificate of Analysis. The Board also looks into the professionals’ credentials and checks for the availability of their Certificate of Registration and updated Professional Identification Card. Lastly, the Board looks at the benefits provided to the professionals, such as hazard pay, health insurance, and legal assistance.

As one of the employees of the Commission who had the privilege to be a PRC Representative and assist the Board, I have witnessed how they significantly impacted the maintenance and enhancement of their profession. Together with the Board, I have seen how dilapidated laboratories with hints of chemical odors have been renovated. I was in the room where it usually happens – the Board providing free consultations on managing the laboratories’ hazardous chemical wastes. I have seen how the Board has fought for the rights of every Chemist and Chemical Technician by strengthening their role in the chemical laboratory, enforcing the law that only registered Chemists and Chemical Technicians are allowed to perform chemical analyses. In one of our recent audits, when the institution we inspected reported that they increased their Plantilla position of Chemists due to the Board’s zealous implementation of the law, I can’t help but feel proud of the Board for the positive impact they continue to make for the profession. Personally, I believe the most significant contribution of the Board is mandating hazard pay for its professionals. In 2018, only a few Chemists and Chemical Technicians were receiving hazard pay, but because of the Board, all of the Chemists and Chemical Technicians working in the laboratory are now entitled for this benefit.

Inspection at National Reference Laboratory in East Avenue, Quezon City on February 16, 2024.

It is no secret that the Board has encountered several challenges before these trailblazing changes were achieved. Requiring a chemical laboratory in poor condition to have its facilities refurbished entails a hefty amount. The same goes for mandating hazard pay. We know that allocating budgets is difficult to achieve. The Board of Chemistry understands this issue and, with their good hearts, allows the establishment or institution to set its realistic target date of accomplishment on the recommendations of the Board that entail substantial financial costs. The Board’s actions towards such matters is one of the reasons why I sincerely appreciate them. They wield their authority, but they always bring humanity with their decisions. Sure, sometimes a laboratory takes a long time before complying with the set standards of the Board, but it’s all right, especially when it entails a massive positive transformation.

Those who had the chance to work with the Board of Chemistry, especially those assigned as the PRC Representative, will likewise attest to the Board’s passion and dedication towards improving the chemistry profession. I am sure not only myself but also my colleagues have witnessed how the Board willingly spent overtime when visiting the laboratories to share their expertise. In monitoring the compliances submitted through email by the establishments or institutions, my colleagues and I are often in awe with the Board when we see the time they reply to the applicants. Oftentimes, we see them answer in the middle of the night or even in the break of dawn.

It is easy to envision a better society, but the challenge lies in working toward that goal. Change does not happen overnight. Change is a gradual process. It takes time, and it takes effort. In the Chemistry profession, it has taken years and resources before we now see how this change has positively affected its professionals. The Board of Chemistry, composed of these dedicated women of science, is leading this change. Just like every celebrated woman in our history whom we know has fought for equality and made outstanding contributions that have benefited humanity, one thing is common among them – and that is how they have dedicated a significant amount of time of their life to make it happen. Like them, the Board of Chemistry has created positive changes by taking concrete actions that promote equality and empowerment. Now, fast forward to the present, as of February 2024, a total of 1069 inspections of chemical laboratories have been done, 617 of which have been issued with the Certificate of Authority to Operate, and 452 are in different stages of improvement. The Board of Chemistry continues its mission with a target of 151 chemical laboratories for inspection and monitoring for 2024.

For the Chemistry profession, indeed, change has come – led by three women, one chemical laboratory at a time!

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