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Senate OKs on final reading “Doktor Para Sa Bayan” medical scholarship bill

FILE PHOTO: Doctor Jan Claire Dorado (far left) and fellow health workers resuscitate a patient at the resuscitation area of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Emergency Room of East Avenue Medical Center, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, June 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

The Senate on Monday approved on its third and final reading a measure that seeks to grant a full scholarship to aspiring Filipino doctors in the Philippines.

The chamber passed Senate Bill No. 1520, or the proposed Doktor Para Sa Bayan Act with 22 affirmative votes and no negative votes. The bill aims to have one doctor per town in the country by providing a scholarship to deserving but financially-challenged Filipino students, from state universities and partner private schools.

“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 passage of the measure.

The student must pass first the National Medical Admission Test and the entrance examinations required for the Doctor of Medicine degree. Scholars must also take the licensure exam for physicians within a year after completing the internship program.

After they pass the licensure exam, scholars should work in a government health office or government hospital in their respective hometowns “for one year for every year that the scholarship has been availed of.”

The proposed measure also provides that if a scholar refuses to render the mandatory return service, he/she shall be required to pay the full cost of the scholarship.

In a statement, Senate President Tito Sotto III, the principal author of the bill, said it has “at the most opportune time” with the country reeling from the pandemic.

“Naniniwala akong magaling ang mga Pilipino sa larangan ng medisina. Kaya nating mag-produce ng mga world-class doctors na maipagmamalaki ng ating bansa,” Sotto said.

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