Bill granting incentives to pro bono doctors filed in Senate

A PROPOSED law that will give incentives to doctors extending free services to indigent patients, with or without a health crisis, has been filed in the Senate. Senate Bill No. 1715, the Physician Pro Bono Care Act, seeks to provide tax incentives to doctors in recognition of their work at no cost to patients as well as encourage more voluntary service. “A number of doctors have taken it upon themselves to volunteer and render free health services to our people who cannot afford to seek medical attention. The tax incentive is a way of giving back for their selflessness, commitment and expertise,” Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, the bill’s author, said in a statement. Citing 2019 data, Ms. Llamanzares said the Philippines has a 1:33,000 doctor-to-patient ratio, which is higher that the global average 1:6,600. She also said six out of ten Filipinos die without being able to see a doctor. “The advent of COVID-19 pandemic even exacerbated the healthcare situation in the country… The pandemic also widened the gap to quality healthcare access among the poor and marginalized,” she said in the explanatory note of the bill. The bill mandates the Department of Health and the Philippine Medical Association to evaluate the pro bono services, taking into account the number of hours rendered and the nature of treatment. The tax credit will be deducted from the doctor’s gross income. — Charmaine A. Tadalan 

Presidential communications office records 23 COVID-19 cases

THE PRESIDENTIAL Communications Operations Office (PCOO) on Sunday confirmed 23 positive cases of the coronavirus among their personnel, but said this will not affect President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s annual address on Monday. Of the total cases, 17 are from the PCOO main office, and the rest are from the People’s Television Network, APO Production Unit, Philippine Information Agency, and Radio Television Malacañang. Two personnel have died from the disease. PCOO Secretary José Ruperto Martín M. Andanar, in a radio interview on Sunday, said none of the COVID-positive personnel from the PCOO has interacted with Mr. Duterte. The New Executive Building in Malacañang, where the PCOO office is located, will be on semi-lockdown during the State of the Nation Address, with just technical staff and members of the media allowed in. Mr. Duterte will deliver his address at the congressional complex. — Gillian M. Cortez 

PHAP donates P120M for coronavirus emergency response

MEMBERS the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) donated about P120 million in monetary and healthcare equipment to aid the response to coronavirus infections, the group said in a statement. PHAP said the donations benefitted more than 1.5 million families, and over 155 private and government hospitals nationwide. “Even as the global biopharmaceutical industry is leading the way in developing COVID- 19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, we are taking concrete actions to support the Philippine government’s COVID-19 response,” PHAP Executive Director Teodoro B. Padilla said in the statement. Its members also donated P8.5 million in cash and in-kind to its social responsibility arm, PHAPCares Foundation. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas