MANILA - The Senate on Monday unanimously approved a bill that will create a medical scholarship program for all deserving students in the country aspiring to become doctors.
All 22 senators present in the session voted in favor of the passage of Senate Bill No. 1520, or the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act.
"We will give free medical education to poor and deserving students in all our regions. But we will also require them to render a return service, fitting and proper to the Filipino people, from medical doctors who were educated from the government’s coffers," Sen. Joel Villanueva, who sponsored the bill, said in plenary.
Under the measure, Filipino students who will avail of the scholarship will have to serve one year in the country for every year he or she was under the government's scholarship program.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who filed the first version of the bill under the current Congress, said the proposed law would help the Philippine "healthcare system sector to be better prepared for" future pandemics and health emergencies.
"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," Sotto said in a statement.
"Naniniwala akong magaling ang mga Pilipino sa larangan ng medisina. Kaya nating mag-produce ng mga world-class doctors na maipagmamalaki ng ating bansa," he said.
"This bill will be a legacy of this Senate, 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," Villanueva said.
The Doktor Para sa Bayan Act will help make a "more resilient" Philippines, said Sen. Sonny Angara, who has been pushing for the bill since 2013.
"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," he said.
Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa said the passage of the measure was "personal" to him, noting that he was raised in a rural barangay that could not be easily reached by doctors.
"Ang aking pamilya po ay nakaranas din ng pagdadalamhati nang bawian ng buhay ang aking 2 na musmos na kapatid nang hindi man lang nakapagpadoktor," Dela Rosa said.