Pulong eyes tax breaks for volunteer doctors

January 3, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 166 views

DAVAO City 1st District Rep. Paolo “Pulong” Duterte has sought the grant of tax incentives to doctors volunteering their services for free to indigent patients as a way of recognizing their “selfless and committed” efforts in helping provide quality healthcare to Filipinos.

Under House Bill (HB) No. 5672, Duterte and three other lawmakers have proposed that physicians continuously rendering pro bono services to poor patients be given tax credits to be deducted from their gross income.

In filing the bill with Benguet Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS Party-list Reps. Edvic Yap and Jeffrey Soriano, the Davao City lawmaker, lauded doctors who, with or without the pandemic, “have braved the frontlines” to be able to extend their services for free to underprivileged and marginalized Filipinos.

The University of the Philippines’ (UP) latest estimates show that, on 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 one for every 1,000 (or 10 for every 10,000 people).

Duterte said that despite this dismal ratio, many doctors still choose to render pro bono services, especially in far-flung communities where healthcare remains scarce.

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

Under HB 5672, 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 (BIR), in consultation with the DoH and PMA, shall promulgate the rules and regulations for the effective enforcement of the bill’s provisions.

Given rising healthcare costs, which entail corresponding expenses for doctors providing pro bono services, Duterte said he believes more physicians would be encouraged to provide charity care if they are given tax breaks.