MANILA - Several senators on Monday moved to prohibit foreign student from enrolling in medical courses in state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country, saying these should be made exclusive for Filipino students.
While the Philippines should not turn away foreign students from studying in the country, "it cannot be an open-ended policy," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said during a Senate budget hearing.
"I find this repulsive. We spend tax payers' money to educate foreign medical students?" Drilon said.
"We are not saying that foreign students should not come to our shores. But let them enroll in private school with the appropriate fees. To be in SUCs cannot be justified for whatever reason," he said.
Senators Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian and Cynthia Villar backed Drilon's position on the issue, saying medical courses in SUCs should only accept Filipino students.
"We have limited capacity. We should give it to Filipinos, not to foreigners," Villar said.
"They are taking the space that should have been allocated to a Filipinos," Cayetano said.
"Taxpayers pay for the building, for the hospitals [used in medical courses], so it is proper to prioritize Filipinos," Gatchalian said.
Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Prospero De Vera said he also prefers to ban foreign students from enrolling in medical courses in SUCs, but noted that state-run university's boards have control over the matter.
"We have been telling our SUCs to charge them (foreign students) higher... [because] there are accusations that the foreign medical students are crowding out local students," De Vera told senators.
The CHED chief noted though that only a "small number" of SUCs have been catering to foreign students.
Sen. Imee Marcos warned that if left unregulated, the Congress' plan to create a scholarship program for medical students in the Philippines may end up benefitting non-Filipinos.
"We are aggressively increasing the number of medical scholarships. Baka bumagsak pa 'yan sa kamay ng iba. Sayang naman kung palpak naman," she said.
(It might fall in the hands of others. What a waste if it would be a failure.)
The Senate earlier passed on final reading a bill that would grant free medical education to qualified Filipinos to increase the number of doctors and health workers in the country.
Senators instructed CHED to submit a proposal on how to regulate the enrollment of foreign students in SUCs.
"We can limit it to certain fields of endeavor, but medicine should not be one of them," Cayetano said.
"It's a question of what courses are available to Filipinos, and what courses are we giving away to foreigners," she said.