The roots of the UPLB-CEAT Chemical Engineering Department may be traced to the UP College of Agriculture (UPCA) Sugar Technology Program (STP), which was reinstituted in 1968, even before UP Los Baños became an autonomous campus of the University of the Philippines System.
Edited by Engr. MARIA VICTORIA MIGO-SUMAGANG
Way back in 1920, the Philippine sugar industry was young and expanding. It had a critical need for people with expertise in Sugar Technology- a graduate with integrated knowledge in cane production, sugar chemistry and sugar factory operations. The UPCA responded by training students in the operation of a college sugar mill, then under Dr. Manuel L. Roxas ( namesake of a former Philippine president), chair of the Department of Agricultural Chemistry. To formalize this training, a certificate in sugar technology was conferred on students majoring in Agricultural Chemistry who put in an extra “fifth year work in Sugar Technology courses”. It has been said that graduates of this curriculum were readily taken in by the sugar centrals, who in a short period, were given higher ranks and very responsible positions. Then a 5-year BS Sugar Technology (BSST) curriculum was formally instituted in 1925. Starting in this period, Sugar Technology students earned praises and , gained highly respected stature in the academe. The last graduates of the pre-World War II curriculum obtained their degrees in 1942. In Sugar Technology history, this batch was dubbed as the first wave graduates.
With the initiative of the Philippine Sugar Institute (PHILSUGIN), a research and development arm of the sugar industry ( created in the 50’s ), the offering of the BS Sugar Technology was resumed in 1955. The first post-war Sugar Technology curriculum was a 5-year, one-summer course with no thesis. It was classified into two types: Type A for Sugar Engineering majors; Type B for Sugar Chemistry majors. In both types, students are required to practice in a sugar factory for one whole milling season (about 6 months).
As history unfolded, shortly before World War II, the Chemical Engineering and Chemistry laws were passed by the Philippine Congress, authorizing only registered Chemical Engineers to run chemical factories, which included sugar mills, and only registered Chemists as eligible to work in the chemical laboratories, including the sugar control laboratories. These positions were previously occupied by the Sugar Technology graduates. During the period 1959-1967, the Chemists and Chemical Engineers could take their professional examinations, and therefore were eligible to work in chemical factories. In the absence of a professional licensing examination, Sugar Technology graduates found themselves, either unemployed or underemployed in sugar factories because of such legality. Hence, the post WWII Sugar Technology graduates (1955-1965), the second wave graduates, were legally barred from practicing their profession in sugar centrals. The Sugar Technology Professionalization Law had to be enacted, but as expected, found some “resistance” from competing disciplines who lobbied against passage of such law. Because of this situation, the BSST curricular program was discontinued, instead a 5-year BS Agricultural Chemistry curriculum was adopted with an option to major in Sugar Technology.
In 1968, Republic Act No. 5197, regulating the practice of Sugar Technology, was enacted into law, through the concerted efforts of the alumni working in the sugar industry, and through the legwork of a Sugar Technologist Prof. Amando E. Libunao. The first Sugar technology Board examination was given in August 1973. Those graduates who passed the board examination can legally practice their profession, just like the Chemists and the Chemical Engineers working in sugar factories. On July 3, 1968, PHILSUGIN appropriated an initial grant of PhP 75,000 to UPCA to support the program re-instituting the BSST curriculum. This grant increased and continued, from 1968-1989, even when PHILSUGIN was closed to give way to the creation of a very powerful Philippine Sugar Commission (PHILSUCOM), 1973-1986, which later was also dismantled after EDSA 1, in order to establish the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) in 1986. The ST graduating class during this period was composed of the third wave graduates.
Since its institution, the department has been very well supported by all UPLB Chancellors and CEAT Dean, even under the different department chairs, namely, Dr. Ernesto P. Lozada, Dr. Casiano S. Abrigo, Jr., Dr. Reynaldo I. Acda, Prof. Rex B. Demafelis (three terms), Prof. Myra G. Borines, Dr. Jovita L. Movillon, Dr. Catalino G. Alfafara, Dr. Manolito E. Bambase, and Dr. Monet Concepcion M. Detras (current).
Academic Linkages and collaborations
Through the years, STP and the department have collaborated with other CEAT and UPLB units through the affiliate faculty members coming from IAE, BIOTECH, CFNR, IC-CAS, IBS-CAS, IFST-CA, who serve as co-advisers and panel members of thesis students. There are also linkages with different sugar factories for the practicum of its students, like the Central Azucarera de Don Pedro, Inc. (CADPI) in Nasugbu Batangas, Batangas Sugar Central in Balayan, Batangas, Victorias Milling Company (VICMICO) and Lopez Sugar Central in Negros Occ., and Bukidnon Sugar Milling Co. (BUSCO) in Bukidnon. The department is continuously strengthening its academic-industry linkages by partnering with various companies for its Internship program.
Through the encouragement of Dr. Ernesto P. Lozada, Asst. Prof. Rex B. Demafelis and Asst. Prof. Marilou N. Nabatilan worked for the formal organization of the Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers (PIChE) Laguna Chapter in Sept. 1997. During that period, the department served as PIChE Laguna secretariat. Then Asst. Prof. Demafelis became the vice-president and chair of the committee on education. Through the department faculty and staff, PIChE-Laguna sponsored and organized various technical seminars for the continuing education of chemical engineers I the CALABARZON. Also during this period, PIChE-Laguna, through the department, started conducting review sessions for prospective examinees of the Chemical Engineering Licensure Examination.