President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a measure that forms a scholarship and return service program for aspiring Filipino doctors, Malacañang said Wednesday as the Philippines continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republic Act No. 11509 or the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act aims to support the studies of "deserving" medical students who will eventually render medical service in government hospitals in their hometowns or underserved areas.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the program would prioritize aspiring doctors from areas without government doctors or those that have few.
"Binibigyang prayoridad ng batas na ito ang mga kwalipikadong aplikante sa mga bayan na walang doktor ng gobyerno or government physicians para matiyak na magkaroon ng at least one doctor bawat munisipalidad sa bansa," he said.
The new law seeks to lure more Filipinos into studying medicine to increase the country's doctor-to-patient ratio.
Students who will qualify for the program will be entitled to free tuition, internship fees, medical board review fees, and licensure fees; allowance for prescribed books, supplies, uniform, accommodation, and transportation.
Once the scholar obtains his or her medical license, he or she will be required to serve in a government hospital or any public health facility for at least one year for every scholarship year availed of.
The return service must be rendered within six years since passing the licensure exam.