DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 Nov) – With the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) taking effect by end of the year, players in the rubber industry are hoping to have the first laboratory with accreditation from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Trade and Industry Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya, during the 2nd Philippine Rubber Investment & Market Encounter (PRIME) at the SMX Convention Center Davao on Tuesday, told reporters that the Department of Science in Technology (DOST) is applying for ISO 17025 for its testing laboratory in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
Mindanao has two other rubber laboratory testing facilities – in the University of Southern Mindanao campus in Kabacan, North Cotabato, and in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, operated by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
All these facilities are located near the rubber plantations.
“Accreditation under ISO 17025 is a basic requirement for a laboratory to qualify for a national reference laboratory (NRL),” Maglaya said.
Having an ISO-accredited laboratory testing facility is also the commitment of the Philippine government to its ASEAN counterparts as the floodgates open for the economic integration.
“The Philippines has a standing commitment to the Asean Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality – Rubber Based Products Working Group for at least one accredited Asean Reference Laboratory by 2016,” she added.
The trade official said that the country is the only rubber-producing country with no national reference laboratory.
“The facility is necessary so that we can check the quality of our rubber if it has met certain standards,” Maglaya said. “We continue to push for the improvement of the quality of our rubber and rubber products on top of our relentless campaign to improve productivity to at least counter the prolonged low price of natural rubber,” she added.
Maglaya also said that Yokohama Tires Philippines, Inc. was sourcing less than six percent natural rubber from the country before, but it has now gone up to 32 percent.
She attributed this to improved farm production practices and processing by the farmers.
But the country remains to be a net importer of rubber from Thailand and Indonesia at 94 percent.
“The low quality has become a common concern among traders and exporters as well. Thus, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) worked together to advocate for the improvement of quality by campaigning among producers and processors the adoption of rubber and rubber product standards and provision of rubber testing and laboratory facilities,” she added.
The country produces about 200,000 metric tons (MT) of rubber a year, 99 percent of these come from Mindanao, which is being eyed as the rubber hub of the Philippines.