Villanueva assures sufficient funds in 2021 GAA for Doktor Para sa Bayan Act

Published January 6, 2021, 11:46 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Joel Villanueva has assured that there are “sufficient” funds in the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget for the rollout of Republic Act No. 11509, the “Doktor Para Sa Bayan” Act.

Sen. Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Villanueva, sponsor and co-author of the law, said on Tuesday that Congress has appropriated over P1 billion to implement the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act.

He said that under the 2021 General Appropriations Act, some P802 million has been allocated to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Health (DOH) to allow them to accommodate more scholars under the medical scholarship program.

Lawmakers also allocated P279 million for Cebu Normal University, University of Southeastern Philippines, and Western Mindanao State University to fund the opening of their respective colleges of medicine this year.

CHED also has P150 million in its budget to assist other state universities and colleges intending to establish their own medicine programs, Villanueva added.

He said that with the enactment of RA 11509, “there is no more reason that we cannot have enough doctors to take care of our people.”

He said that at present, most of the country’s doctors are concentrated in urban centers like Metro Manila, where nearly 40 percent of the licensed physicians practice their profession.

In contrast, Region 4B (MIMAROPA), Region 12 (CARAGA), and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have one doctor for every 10,000 population in their regions.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that six out of 10 Filipinos who die in the country were not able to see a doctor for treatment, Villanueva said.

“Litaw na litaw po ang tinaguriang ‘Achilles heel’ ng ating healthcare system ngayong pandemya. Kulang po ang ating mga doktor na siyang mangangalaga sa ating mga kababayan. Inaasahan po natin na sa kalaunan, dadami ang mga doktor sa mga bayan at munisipalidad, at hindi na kailangang dumayo pa ang mga maysakit sa mga malalayong lugar para mabigyan ng atensyong medikal,” he said. (The ‘Achilles heel’ in our health care system became more apparent during the pandemic. We are lacking in doctors who should be taking care of our people. We expect that in the long run, doctors in cities and municipalities will increase and the sick will no longer have to travel far so they can get medical attention.)

“One of our goals in the measure is to eliminate the biggest perceived reason for our youths who aspire to become doctors. Their dreams of becoming a doctor has a clearer path today through the Doktor para sa Bayan bill,” he added.

The Doktor Para Sa Bayan Act, signed by President Duterte last December 23, 2020, provides for a medical scholarship and return service program.

Under the law, the government will shoulder all expenses to send beneficiaries to medical schools, including tuition and other school fees, as well as allowances.

The scholars, in turn, should work in public health facilities in the country for the same number of years they were under the scholarship program.

Doctors who will refuse to comply with the mandatory return service shall pay back the full cost of their scholarship expenses.

Villanueva said the law will prioritize qualified applicants from municipalities without government physicians to ensure the assignment of at least one doctor for every municipality in the country.