The Geosciences Division personnel of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office No. XIII took part in the 77th Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers (PIChE) National Convention with the theme “Chemical Engineers Addressing Challenges of ASEAN Integration” on February 17-20, 2016 at Boracay Ecovillage Resort and Convention Center on Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan.

In anticipation of the great opportunities that the ASEAN integration will open up for Filipino professionals, the convention heightened the consciousness of PIChE members to enhance their professional competencies to be on a par with their other Asian counterparts.  Engr. Francisco A. Arellano, one of the members of the Board of Chemical Engineering, elucidated that the opening of barriers which would allow the practice of foreign professionals in our country will not be a threat to our labor force. He added that there are remaining issues and gaps that need to be resolved in order for our professionals to really level up with their counterparts from ASEAN member countries.

The plenary sessions which dealt with the convention’s theme were tackled by Dr. Filemon Uriarte, Jr., President of National Research Council of the Philippines and Director for Functional Cooperation of ASEAN Secretariat, and Dr. George N. Manzano, Assistant Professor of the School of Economics of the University of Asia and the Pacific, Member Commissioner of the Philippines Tariff Commission in 2004-2005, Economic Affairs Officer of the UN  Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in 2009-2010.  Dr. Uriarte presented the “Challenges and Expectations for Chemical Engineering Practice and Services in ASEAN Integration” while Dr. Manzano presented “The Economic Impacts of ASEAN Integration.”

According to the two prominent speakers, the center of global economic gravity is shifting towards Asia, in particular towards China, India and ASEAN. ASEAN created a single market and production base called the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) on December 31, 2015. One of the components of the AEC is the Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs) Framework which has been formalized for the mutual recognition of education and experiences obtained in priority sectors including engineering services.

Dr. Uriarte stressed that it is important for Filipino professionals to have a good university education and substantial qualifications to be able to compete with their counterparts from other ASEAN countries in order to maximize the benefits from MRAs. Dr. Uriarte informed the PIChE members that the Philippine lags behind its ASEAN counterparts, namely, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, in providing high-quality education including chemical engineering based on the rating by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Ranking 2015.  He stated further that the current challenges for chemical engineers are in the areas of water, energy, food and health. According to him, chemical engineers should acquire a good knowledge of thermodynamics, transport phenomena and the systems approach in order to effectively face these challenges.

On the other hand, Dr. Basilio’s video presentation showed how Filipino businessmen compete on the ASEAN economy.  He said that Filipinos have always been borderless and breaking boundaries in view of their love of travel and service which strengthen tourism-related businesses.  Filipino innovations and ingenuity fuel creative industries which are enhanced by unique people renowned for their skills, care, friendliness and services.  He added that we should upgrade our industry and improve our educational system in order to be more competitive.  As a final point, Dr. Basilio imparted that AEC is a journey still unfolding.  He said that Filipino professionals’ orientation should be to think globally, cooperate regionally and implement locally.

The other plenary session topics presented during the convention include the following:

  • Chemical Engineering Education and Accreditation;
  • Climate Change and Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities;
  • Process Safety:  Integrating it into an Organization Culture;
  • Plasma and Supercritical Fluid Technology for Production of Functional Materials ;
  • From Concept to Commercialization;
  • Talks on National Standards and Testing and Quality; and
  •  Sustainable Nuclear Energy.

For technical parallel sessions, the GSD personnel attended the session on the subject of “Mine Tailings, Treatment, Storage and Rehabilitation of Coral Bay Nickel Corporation” presented by Engr. Briccio T. Abela from the Environmental Management and Control Section of Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) in Palawan.  As shown in the presentation of Engr. Abela, the Tailings Storage Facility 1 of Coral Bay Nickel Corporation was filled to capacity after six years of operations and was decommissioned in 2010.  The rehabilitation of the barren, reddish brown tailings soil at TSF-1 started in 2011.  The rehabilitation process included the application of an innovative soil revitalization and planting technique that were never done before.  In the PowerPoint presentation, some people who were able to visit the 70-hectare tailings area of CBNC attested that it had already become a sustainable grassland ecosystem which is inhabited by various faunas.

The 77th PIChE Annual Convention was also recorded as the most participated convention for chemical engineers with a total of 745 participants. Various activities such as the Student Congress, poster presentations, exhibit and fellowship night also took place during the event.