The world was taken by surprise when the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emerged late last year and has since grown into a pandemic, affecting many countries and putting most of us in difficult economic situation.

As of writing, the Philippines has more than a thousand confirmed cases of individuals affected by this disease, and is rapidly increasing. The national government is doing its best to curb the COVID cases by placing the entire Luzon in an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). Several local government units (LGU) have also made their move in containing the spread of the disease by imposing curfew hours, limiting the number of persons who can go out to buy necessities and by rationing food packs. Some LGUs have remarkably stepped up a notch in dealing with the pandemic by setting up their own testing facilities. The local government of Marikina for example, has set up a COVID-19 molecular testing laboratory and is awaiting Department of Health’s (DOH) approval. The Muntinlupa City government, on its official social media page, has also announced its plan of having a similar testing facility. Because of the current experience, many might follow suit in the future and may need a third party checker in verifying the competence of these laboratories. Accreditation is a useful tool for this purpose.

In a press release of the Department of Health dated 20 March 2020 posted on its website, it said that it is accelerating its COVID-19 testing facilities. Five (5) sub-national laboratories are already in operation alongside the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). These are San Lazaro Hospital, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center for Luzon; Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center for Visayas; and Southern Philippines Medical Center for Mindanao. While RITM can process 1000 tests daily, these laboratories are able to process 50-300 tests. Additionally, Western Visayas Medical Center and Bicol Public Health Laboratory are also being set-up. The University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health as an extension laboratory has also been mobilized and is currently testing overflow samples from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Much information have been disseminated for public awareness, which includes terminologies like accreditation and certification. For instance, the DOH’s press release mentions that they certify these national laboratories. Other news media outlets also mention that testing laboratories are subject to accreditation from DOH.

To be clear, the difference between accreditation and certification is in their application. Accreditation is a third party attestation stating that a conformity assessment body has demonstrated competence in carrying out task like testing, calibration, certification or inspection based on international standards and requirements (e.g.: ISO/IEC 17025, 17020, 17021 and ISO 17020 among others). Certification means a third party attestation related to products, processes, systems or persons. The most widely used certification standard across government agencies is the ISO 9001 (management systems), but there are a lot more of these standards depending on the intended use. On the other hand, instead of accreditation or certification, DOH issues license to operate (LTO) to clinical laboratories to operate and conduct tests.

Accurate test results from testing laboratories are very crucial during this time as the Covid-19 remains a threat and in the future due to the emergence of novel diseases. This can be ensured if international standards, requirements and protocols are being followed. Accreditation allows laboratories to determine if they are doing their work competently, impartially and independently based on these standard and specifications. It also provides them the benchmark of maintaining this competence resulting to more consistent and reliable test results and reports. Accredited laboratories are regularly evaluated by an accreditation body (AB) like the Philippine Accreditation Bureau (PAB) of the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure their continued competence and compliance to the requirements of international standards. Laboratories are also required to participate in relevant proficiency testing programs to further demonstrate their technical competence.

To check if a laboratory is accredited, you may visit the website of the accreditation body (AB) they claim to have gotten their accreditation. Scope of accreditation and specific tests that they are accredited for are included in the AB’s website.

For more information about our accreditation services, please contact the Philippine Accreditation Bureau at email address: or visit

Release Date: 02 April 2020