Through the grace of God and the hard working staff of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management – Laboratory Services Division (BSWM-LSD) with the leadership of Dr. Gina P. Nilo, OIC Assistant Director and Concurrent Chief of the division, the three-day remote assessment of the division by the Philippine Accreditation Bureau (PAB) on its conformance and reaccreditation to the ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard was successfully completed. The assessment team is composed of the following: Ms. Meden Jojemar Peneyra, Team Leader (Integrated Chemists of the Philippines); Ms. Marieson Trinidad, Team Member (Philippine Society for Microbiology); Dr. Veronica Migo, Technical Assessor (University of the Philippines Los Baños); Mr. Christopher Millena, Technical Assessor (Department of Science and Technology V); and Mr. Dave Briones (Food and Nutrition Research Institute). The assessment ended with a positive note with the PAB Assessors’ recommendation for the reaccreditation of the BSWM-LSD for another five-year full cycle (2021-2025).

Through the persistence of the BSWM-LSD, all of the applied parameters for the testing of soil (16), water (6), and fertilizer (3) analysis were approved for accreditation by the PAB Assessors. The approved parameters are: for soil analysis (pH, EC, Organic Carbon/Matter, Total Nitrogen, Available P (Olsen P), Available P (Bray 1), Exchangeable Bases (K, Na, Ca, & Mg), Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), Available Trace Elements (Fe, Zn, Cu, & Mn) and Particle Size Analysis); for water analysis (pH, EC, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, and Nitrate Nitrogen); and for fertilizer analysis (Total Nitrogen, Total Potassium, and Total Phosphorus). Amassing these accredited parameters for different testing scopes proves the competency of the BSWM-LSD in the field of soil, water, and fertilizer testing for agriculture.

Likewise, the PAB Assessors’ approved the application of the division’s 12 technical staff as signatories to various testing scopes. Dr. Gina P. Nilo, Quality Manager and Mr. Bergil G. Bernaldo, Technical Manager, were both approved as signatories for all parameters on soil, water, and fertilizer analyses. Consequently, the following staff were also approved as signatories to various parameters: Ms. Florfina P. Sanchez, Ms. Madonna V. Go Lim Tai, Ms. Gloria P. Urriza, Ms. Lyra L. Espectacion, Ms. Marjorie Jean E. Tao, Ms. Mary Claire Alyssa E. Pras, Ms. Joerdette N. Jimenez, Mr. Joshua Mikhel B. Reyes, Mr. John Adrian A. Pascua, and Mr. Neil Ivan C. Baribe. The approval of all the aforementioned as PAB signatories is a genuine evidence of Professionalism being practiced among the BSWM-LSD staff as a key to efficient and quality services to its customers.

These achievements of the BSWM-LSD towards sustaining and enhancing its competency as per the ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard are all for its commitment to local and international undertakings.

International and Local Commitments

At the international level, the division is actively participating in the international scene. The reaccreditation of the division to ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard reaffirms its recognition and status as the National Reference Laboratory of the Food and Agriculture Organization – Global Soil Laboratory Network (FAO-GLOSOLAN) since 2017. This recognition is only given to deserving laboratories that has the capability to represent and lead the totality of the country’s soil laboratories, it also recognizes the expertise and technical competence of the laboratory in the field of soil analysis. The FAO-GLOSOLAN aims to build and strengthen the capacity of laboratories in soil analysis and respond to the need for harmonizing analytical data. This endeavor of the FAO-GLOSOLAN is already downscaled to the Philippines set-up through the establishment of the Philippines National Soil Laboratory Network (PHIL NASOLAN) last 2019. Additionally, BSWM-LSD plays an important role in the regional networks of the FAO-GLOSOLAN, Dr. Gina P. Nilo has been the chair of the Asian Soil Laboratory Network (SEALNET) for 2019-2021 and vice-chair since 2017-2019. Recently, Dr. Nilo is also appointed as the chair of the FAO Pillar 5 for 2021-2023.

At the local level, the BSWM-LSD is at the forefront in the implementation of the PD 1435 which mandates the Bureau of Soils to supervise, regulate and control the establishment and operations of All soil laboratories in the country as supported with by no less than, Secretary William D. Dar, Ph.D. with two DA policy issuances; DA Department Circular No. 3 series of 2019 or the Updated Implementing Rules and Regulations of PD 1435 and DA Memorandum Circular No. 33 series of 2020 or the Guidelines on the Issuance of License to Operate Soil Laboratory (LTO-SL). In compliance to its regulatory mandate, the BSWM-LSD has already assessed the compliance of 29 soil laboratories (SLs) as of August 4, 2021 out of the 42 SLs registered in its database. There were five SLs that are compliant and 24 SLs that are non-compliant with the set requirements as per DA MC No. 33 s. 2020. The non-compliant laboratories will undergo training and capacity building activities to ensure compliance to the standards set under PD 1435.

The BSWM-LSD, through the above mentioned policy issuances aims to harmonize the procedures and test methods of all soil laboratories in the country to support efficient and quality data generation as support to policy making at a national level for sustaining the health of soils throughout the agricultural lands of the Philippines. The implementation of PD 1435 is also in harmony with the legacy program of the Department of Agriculture for the soils of the country, the National Soil Health Program (NSHP) which is being led by Dr. Gina P. Nilo, the same person who crafted and proposed the said program.

Implementation of the National Soil Health Program (NSHP)

The NSHP has an approved funding of 1.5 Billion Pesos ($ 29.8M) for three years with 523 Million Pesos or 34.87% of the approved funding already released this 2021. The first year of the program aims to generate baseline data on the status of soils throughout the country and upgrade the regional soil laboratories (RSLs) of the department through the provision of high-end laboratory equipment to ensure fast and reliable analytical results on the analysis of soils. Also, there will be a 10-hectare demo farm that will be established in all regions to mainstream the adaptive sustainable sand management and monitor soil health, and crop performance which will contribute to the battle-cry of the department that is “Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita” while empowering farmers and women through Soil Doctors Program and livelihood opportunities. All of these undertakings and achievements of the division boils down to its vision to be the Center of Excellence for Soil and Water Analysis and bring up all soil laboratories to global standards. The BSWM-LSD has truly expanded its borders and conquered its limitations triumphantly.

“Commitment is the foundation of great accomplishments.” – Heidi Reeder