An estimated 10B in government revenue was lost due to poor market surveillance and enforcement of penalties to regulate measuring instruments. An estimated 240M losses were due to inaccurate weighing instruments.

This is what Ahdrian Camilo C. Gernale, a Science Research Specialist at the National Metrology Laboratory (NML) at the Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology and Development Institute (DOST-ITDI), said during the recent World Metrology Day Celebration with a theme of “Metrology in the Digital Era”.

A country’s economic growth relies on the ability to design, innovate, manufacture and trade high-quality products and services. Metrology affects the country’s measurement capabilities, which helps the government provide domestic and international confidence in products and services, reduces technical challenges to trade exports, and ensures the quality of imports.  

Currently, the country’s National Metrology operates as a division or Laboratory under the DOST-ITDI and acts as the National Metrology Institute of the country. The mandates and functions of NML are limited by what’s outlined in the outdated Republic Act 9236 or the Metrology Act of 2003, which are as follows: that NML will carry out the technical calibration in laboratory functions to implement the provisions of the Act efficiently. There’s a downside to this, though. NML performs these four functions: Calibration and Testing; Proficiency Testing; Consultancy; and Training, but it is not structurally designed, and it does not have the mandate and full capability to carry out measurement functions necessary to respond to the needs of industry 4.0 – which are for more technologies and industries to utilize high-accuracy measurement data like sensor-based decisions and predictions, artificial intelligence, modeling of measuring instruments, and measurement-based research and development support for our STI community as compared to the foreign national metrology institutes.

“It affects our country’s calibration and measurement capabilities which equates to higher cost of exporting products, eventually becoming less competitive in the international market,” Gernale explained the implication of having an outdated measurement system.

Numerous laws in the Philippines need measurement to enforce penalties or sanctions. A review of rules and regulations shows that measurements affect the state and its citizens, such as the Dangerous Drug Act, Pollution Control, Anti-over speeding, Consumer Act, and Timbangan ng Bayan.

Gernale cited that all of the above-cited policies, which may need some refinements in measurement units to prevent the use of inaccurate, incompatible units, are outside the current scope of the NML, currently a division-level laboratory.

Gernale cited that in comparison with other member states of the ASEAN, the Philippines lack government support in funding. Its ASEAN counterparts, however, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, have long established their respective Metrology Institute. Nearly two decades later, DOST is pushing for the passage of a bill on the Modernized National Measurement System Act. This bill will enable the country to catch up with its ASEAN neighbors and upgrade the government’s metrology services that are more responsive to the industry.

NMI’s importance stems from its being the authority capable of maintaining and developing national measurement standards for the country. It provides measurement traceability to the international system of units (SI) for all measurements used in the country, as well as technical support to calibration laboratories, industries, and regulators; it also appoints competent laboratories as designated institutes for specific measurement fields of national interest not covered by the NML.

NMI also represents the views and interests of its own country at international meetings, fora, and conventions. Also, it carries out, engages, and coordinates research in metrology for the benefit of local users.

The proposed Modernized National Measurement System Act, submitted to both houses of Congress, will facilitate the development of scientific and technical knowledge and progress in the national economy by providing a modernized National Measurement System (NMS) 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. It aims to strengthen the National Metrology Board responsible for standardizing, delineating, overseeing, and coordinating the implementation of legal metrological controls in the country by national regulatory agencies, local government units, and other public and private entities authorized by it, in the interest of fair trade, consumer protection, health, safety, law enforcement, and environmental conservation. (Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin, DOST-STII)