MANILA (2nd UPDATE)- The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed on final reading House Bill 9216 or the proposed "Philippine Physical Therapy Law."
The bill, approved by 199 lawmakers with one abstention, will be sent to the Senate for approval.
The measure, if passed into law, will repeal Republic Act No. 5680 or the “Philippine Physical and Occupational Therapy Law” approved in June 1969.
RA 5680 was modified after the passage of Republic Act No. 11241, or the Philippine Occupation Therapy Law of 2018.
According to its congressional fact sheet, HB 9216 seeks "to promote the development of globally competitive, highly motivated and well-trained Filipino physical therapists by instituting standards for the practice of the profession, including those for licensure, registration and continuing education."
"We have a 50-year-old law, RA 5680, that we've been trying to amend since 1988. The law is over 50 years old and no longer reflects the current practice," Arthur Bhenedict King, member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Physical Therapy Association, Inc., said in a message to ABS-CBN News.
"One of the professions it (RA 5680) regulates, the Occupational Therapists, have their own law now," he said.
The bill's fact sheet said it also seeks to create the "Professional Regulatory Board of Physical Therapy to provide for a more effective supervision, control and regulation of the practice of physical therapy in the country."
But King said it is actually more of restructuring the old Professional Regulatory Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy, since a board for OT already exists.
"The licensure of physical therapists has been required since the late 70s," he said.
"As for the Code of Ethics and Ethical Standards (of Practice), as well as the (Continuing Professional Development Program for Physical Therapists in the Philippines), the bill will merely seek to codify what already exist," he added.
Conditions will be set for allowing foreign physical therapists to practice in the country, as well as penalties for violations of the proposed law, the congressional fact sheet said.
According to PPTA president Michael Gabilo, there are 13,773 physical therapists in the country with active professional identification cards or licenses, as of September 2020, while PT students nationwide during Academic Year 2019-2020 are over 10,000.
"I think the interest/demand for the physical therapy as a potential baccalaureate degree is still there, although there is a recent decline in the student population as compared in the past academic years that can be attributed to several factors," he told ABS-CBN News.
Even though the Philippines has always had "world-class" physical therapists, Gabilo said the new law will "reflect the true practice and caliber of the Filipino PT."
"(Filipino) physical therapists shall no longer be limited to the clinical practice—which though fulfilling is but one aspect of the profession. We will be expected to be involved in public health strategies, research, teaching, advocacy efforts for health and wellness for the different sectors of the community, and management," he said.
"One of the main reasons of this bill is to improve the delivery of physical therapy services for the Filipinos and to ensure access to the physical therapy services through collaborative practice, consistent with the attributes of the Universal Health Care and World Health Organization's Rehabilitation 2030," he added.
—With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News