Water and food testing can be quite problematic for micro-, small-, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) in the island-provinces of the MIMAROPA Region, especially in Palawan. Most of the time, they have to fly water or food samples to Manila, which can be considerably expensive and time-consuming. While there are other existing laboratories in Palawan, their services are not specifically tailored to the needs of MSMEs.

Seeking to address this problem  and in line with Republic Act 10611, or the Food Safety Act of 2013, whose specific objectives include protecting the public from food-borne and water-borne illnesses and unsanitary, unwholesome, misbranded or adulterated foods, and enhancing industry and consumer confidence in the food regulatory system  the Department of Science and Technology-MIMAROPA Region (DOST-MIMAROPA), through the Strengthening the Testing and Analytical Capabilities of the Regional Laboratories to Support the Competitiveness of Local Industries (STARLABS) Project funded by the DOST Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD), established the DOST-MIMAROPA Microbiology Laboratory.

Manila is simply too far away to test your water, so we brought the testing at your doorstep. quipped DOST-MIMAROPA Regional Director Dr. Ma. Josefina P. Abilay during the soft launching of the Microbiology Laboratory at the Provincial Science and Technology Center in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan last December 17, 2013.

The DOST-MIMAROPA Microbiology Laboratory, which aims to provide relevant laboratory testing services to both the government and MSMEs, addresses the need for microbiological test services for surface water, ground water, drinking water, tap water, bottled water, wastewater and food products. Tests such as Fungi Count, Heterotrophic Plate Count, Total Coliform, Fecal Coliform, and Bacteriological Exam for Drinking Water are available for water and wastewater, while tests such as Total/Fecal Coliform (MPN), Standard Plate Count, and Fungi Count are also available for food and food products.

Dr. Abilay, however, stressed that the Microbiology Laboratory is not intended to compete with other existing service laboratories in Palawan, but rather to complement with the existing laboratories. Indeed during the soft launching, a discussion ensued revolving around inter-laboratory partnerships and cooperation, out of which a consortium  initially dubbed Palawan Inter-Laboratory Consortium was proposed. The group discussed the differences among the services and fees offered by each laboratory. They also agreed that once a potential customer inquires, they would refer the the customer to laboratories that are applicable to their needs.

The soft launching was attended by representatives from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff, Provincial Health Office, Western Philippine University, Palawan State University, Puerto Princesa City Water District, Provincial Information Office, City Information Office, Department of Labor and Employment-MIMAROPA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Philippine Information Agency-Palawan. Also present were RGMA, ABS-CBN, Palawan Times, Repetek, and proprietors of SETUP-assisted establishments and some owners of water-refilling stations.

The Microbiology Laboratory’s ISO 17025 certification, the most important standard for calibration and testing laboratories around the world, is currently under process. The certification is to ensure that the customers are given precise and accurate data.