By Filane Mikee Cervantes

PRO BONO. A patient underwent free surgery from volunteer surgeon doctors during the 16th Operation Bukol, Breast Cancer Screening and Lay Forum held at the Philippine Medical Association Auditorium, North Avenue, Quezon City on Sept. 7, 2022. Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte has filed a measure seeking to grant tax incentives to doctors volunteering their services to indigent patients. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – A lawmaker on Tuesday pushed for the passage of a measure seeking to give tax credit to doctors rendering free services to indigent patients.

In a statement, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte said the grant of tax incentives to doctors providing pro bono services to poor patients is a way of recognizing their “selfless and committed” efforts in helping provide quality healthcare to Filipinos.

He noted that despite the country’s overwhelming doctor-to-patient ratio at 1:33,000 compared to the global standard of 1:6,000, the significant number of doctors rendering pro bono services remains “remarkable”.

The University of the Philippines’ latest estimates show that on the average, there are 3.7 doctors in the country for every 10,000 Filipinos, which is way below the World Health Organization (WHO)- prescribed ratio of 1 for every 1,000 (or 10 for every 10,000 people).

“The country’s volunteer physicians are those who braved the frontlines — with or without the pandemic — in order to render quality health care to the people, including those in the far-flung areas,” Duterte said.

He said more physicians would be encouraged to provide charity care if they are granted tax breaks, especially in consideration of rising healthcare costs, which entail corresponding expenses for providing pro bono services.

House Bill 5672, filed by Duterte along with his co-authors Benguet Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS party-list Reps. Edvic Yap and Jeffrey Soriano, proposes that physicians continuously rendering pro bono services to poor patients be given tax credits to be deducted from their gross income.

“These volunteer physicians took the initiative to extend their helping hands to the poor and marginalized as a response to the unreachable gap in the access to quality healthcare,” Duterte said.

Under the measure, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) are tasked to evaluate the pro bono services rendered by physicians by considering the number of hours put in and the nature of the treatment involved in providing such free services.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue, in consultation with the DOH and PMA, shall promulgate the rules and regulations for the effective enforcement of the bill’s provisions. (PNA)