Telling the story
Formally established on January 27, 1978, the National Engineering Center (NEC) has, through the years, served as the UP College of Engineering’s (COE) research and extension arm. It has trained countless professional engineers and non-engineers alike with its continuing education program. Aiding both government and industry through consultancy, the NEC has been at the forefront of engineering research and development in the country with its specialized research centers.
As NEC celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, some of the men and women who have stood at its helm and whose personal and professional vision have guided and helped shape this proud institution, have come forward to relate the NEC story.
During a COE faculty conference in the early 70s, then dean Prof. Alfredo L. Juinio proposed the idea of a national engineering center that would focus on research and development, consultancy, and continuing engineering education. With inputs from Dean Juinio, Dr. Edgardo S. Pacheco wrote the concept of a national engineering center. Dean Juinio also asked Dr. Pacheco, Dr. Leopoldo V. Abis, and Prof. Fortunato T. de la Peña to draft a decree.
In anticipation of the kind of expertise needed for the NEC, a total of 33 COE faculty members were sent abroad in 1977 to work on their graduate and post-graduate degrees under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project entitled “Technical Assistance to the U.P. College of Engineering towards the Establishment of the National Engineering Center.”
The following year, Malacañang issued Presidential Decree No. 1295 creating the National Engineering Center as part of the University of the Philippines and distinct and separate from the UP College of Engineering.
The Early Years
The task of implementing the decree fell into the able hands of Dr. Leopoldo V. Abis, then the COE’s associate dean, who became the Acting Executive Director of NEC in 1978 and its Executive Director from 1979 to 1988. Prof. Fortunato T. de la Peña became his assistant in 1979 until 1988. They organized the NEC by getting a core group composed of Jackie Castillo, Lando Calso, Nora Cabrera, Alexander Aportadera, Noel Matic, and Nanette Pelaez and Rodrigo Anastacio who came in later. Complementing the staff was an advisory board composed of the Executive Vice President of the UP System as Chairman, Dean of the UP College of Engineering (COE), two members appointed by the UP Board of Regents, President of the UP Alumni Engineers (UPAE), Undersecretaries of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Surmounting various challenges, the initial NEC team headed by Dr. Abis achieved the unexpected. From its modest office at the third floor of the COE building, the NEC grew out to having a separate building of its own in 1981. The existing specialized centers of the College of Engineering—the Industrial Research Center (IRC), the National Hydraulic Research Center (NHRC), the Training Center for Applied Geodesy and Photogrammetry (TCAGP), the Transport Training Center (TTC), and the Building Research Service (BRS) – were institutionalized under the NEC.
Continuing education programs were also established. One of those programs was the Engineering Education Project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The objective was to upgrade the faculty and the facilities of engineering schools throughout the country. “The components of that program were distributed between the COE and the NEC. The COE took care of running the Master of Education Engineering Program. The NEC, on the other hand, took care of the short-term trainings which were conducted in the ten resource-based schools (considered to be the best in engineering) and twenty participating schools all over the country,” explained Prof. dela Peña.
We stayed for two years at the third floor of engineering which was our first office. Those were happy times. At some point there were 7 or 9 people working from that small room. I also got to meet the different personalities from various engineering schools in the country through a NEC-sponsored project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Educational Development Projects Implementing Taskforce (EDPITAF).