Senate OKs 'Doktor Para Sa Bayan' bill

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has passed on third and final reading the "Doktor Para Sa Bayan" bill, which Senator Joel Villanueva described as a landmark legislation with dual objectives of expanding access to medical education and augmenting our human resource for health.

Senate OKs 'Doktor Para Sa Bayan' bill
Doctor the barrio. Photo Credit:

"This bill will be a legacy of this Senate, Mr. President. And I'm sure that the generations of Filipinos that will come after us will be thankful for the passage of this measure which also is a proof that amid the pandemic, the priority of the People's Senate is our people's health," said Villanueva, principal author and principal sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1520, which the Senate adopted unanimously by the body during Monday's session.

The bill sets up a medical scholarship and return service program, which grants scholarships to deserving students aspiring to become physicians. Villanueva, chair of the Senate higher and technical education committee, defended the bill in plenary together with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senator Grace Poe, who are also authors and sponsors of the measure.

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The lawmaker said the bill seeks to encourage more students to take up medicine, and help improve the the country's doctor-patient ratio, which is currently at a dismal 3 doctors per 10,000 population according to health department data. The country needs to produce over 80,000 doctors to meet the WHO-prescribed ratio of 10 doctors per 10,000 population.

"Medical education remains the most expensive course in the Philippines. Ngayon, kahit sinong Pilipino, anuman ang antas sa buhay, kaya nang tuparin ang pangarap na maging doktor," Villanueva said.

"With the swift passage of SBN 1520 or Doktor Para sa Bayan Bill, there is hope that our situation can change. The government will grant free tuition and miscellaneous fees and provide a comprehensive set of schooling allowances to poor and deserving medical students in all our regions, and upon their conferment of physician license, will require them to render a return service. This is fitting and proper to the Filipino people, from medical doctors who were educated from the government's coffers.

The bill intends to double right away the number of scholars under existing scholarship programs of the Department of Health and the Commission on Higher Education, which currently have around 3,000 scholars, explained Villanueva.

Under the bill, medical students in state universities and colleges, as well as private medical schools can apply to be included in the program. Aside from setting up the scholarship program for deserving students seeking to study medicine to become a licensed doctor, Senate Bill No. 1520 sets up a mechanism for state universities and colleges to partner with government hospitals to serve as training institutions.

"Ginoong Pangulo, kapag nakapagtapos ang isang anak at nagkaroon ng trabaho, inaasahang siya naman ang magtutustos sa kanyang mga magulang. Ganun din po ang intensyon ng panukalang ito. Pag-aaralin ka ng medisina ng estado pero inaasahang magsisilbi ka rin sa bayan," Villanueva said.

— The Summit Express

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