Medical scholarship bill gets final Senate nod
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to grant a full scholarship to aspiring Filipino doctors.
The chamber passed Senate Bill No. 1520, or the proposed Doktor Para sa Bayan Act with 22 affirmative votes and no negative votes.
“We are at war and the doctors are the combatants. Just as we train soldiers in peacetime so must we train more in times of war. So let it be now,” Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate higher education committee and sponsor of the measure, said following the bill’s approval.
“Unfortunately we only have nine public medical schools in the country while medical education remains the most expensive course in the Philippines. Ngayon po, kahit sinong Pilipino, anuman ang antas sa kanyang buhay, kaya ng tuparin ang pangarap na maging doktor,” he added.
(Now, every Filipino, whatever the stature in life, can achieve their dream of becoming a doctor.)
The bill seeks to provide a medical scholarship and return service program for “deserving Filipino students” in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and in partner private higher education institutions (PHEIs) in regions with no SUCs offering medicine.
The scholarship grant will cover tuition and all other school fees, including board and lodging, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Internship, medical board review, and licensure fees will also be included in the scholarship.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the principal author of the measure, has come “at the most opportune time” with the country reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
“This law will help the healthcare system sector to be better prepared for similar health emergencies in the future,” Sotto said, adding that the measure would “help financially-challenged but deserving students to pursue their dreams of becoming medical doctors to serve our country and our countrymen.”
“Naniniwala akong magaling ang mga Pilipino sa larangan ng medisina. Kaya nating mag-produce ng mga world-class doctors na maipagmamalaki ng ating bansa,” the Senate president said.
(I believe that Filipinos excel in the field of medicine. We can produce world-class doctors that our country can be proud of.)
“Ang pagsasabatas ng Doktor para sa Bayan Act ang unang hakbang para patuloy na maging matagumpay at mamayagpag ang ating mga kabataang nais na maging mga doktor,” he added.
(In making Doktor para sa Bayan Act a law, our first step is to successfully make our students who aspire to be doctors realize their dream.)
Senator Sonny Angara also welcomed the approval of the medical scholarship bill at a time when the country’s health system is “facing so much pressure”
“We have been filing this bill in previous congresses and pushed for the continuous inclusion of provisions in the national budget for medical scholarships in our state universities and colleges,” he said in a statement.
The House of Representatives has already approved on third and final reading its counterpart measure of the medical scholarship bill.
“We believe that our underprivileged but deserving students, who wish to provide for a better life for their families and to serve the country and its people as physicians, should be given the opportunity to do so,” Angara said.
“Because it is through their dedicated service that our healthcare system becomes more resilient, and gains a better chance of withstanding any pandemic,” he added.