WE and other newspapers have been receiving complaints from some readers about their passports.
They easily tear, the binding gets detached, and the face of the printed page disintegrates when a transparent plastic cover is pulled off.
As a result some Filipinos have been delayed at immigration control in the countries they visit.
Worse than being delayed, some Filipinos have actually been turned away and not allowed to enter their destination country. Others, who unfortunately have the profile of the kind of persons to suspect of being bad guys, have been held and grilled by the foreign countries’ immigration and anti-terrorist police.
The Philippine authorities are very much aware of this problem.
In September 2013, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration advised Filipino travelers to be extra careful in handling e-passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) following reports that some of these were defective.
BI Commissioner Siegfred Mison issued the advisory upon learning that BI personnel at the airports sometimes were berated by passengers whose passport pages got detached when handled at the immigration counters.
Mr. Mison appealed to travelers not to blame the immigration officers for defective passports. He urged passport holders to go to the Department of Foreign Affairs to apply for a replacement passport. Of course, the passport holder would have to pay for the new passport–which is unjust.
Some of these passports disintegrate after time when bound with the plastic covers sold outside the DFA building. The passports easily tear or disintegrate when pulled out from the plastic jackets. The passport cover sticks to the plastic jacket over time. When the cover is removed so the passport can be scanned and read by the machine, the immigration officer finds himself holding a booklet whose pages have gone unbound.
In 2013, the DFA gave the assurance these cases of defective and disintegrating passports are rare, random and isolated. DFA said the problem had been rectified by applying spine reinforcement tape to secure stitches in the covers of the e-passport’s inside pages.
But the DFA warned holders not to fix their passports themselves because telltale signs of having done something with the passports might make them liable for tampering with them. Passport tampering is prohibited and punishable.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is responsible for having the passports made by its designated contractor. Passport production must be done under stringent security controls just as the printing of currency is.
This problem of defective passports must be solved once and for all.
It is not only unjust–and perhaps criminal negligence–to allow a Filipino to be subjected to the stresses, humiliations and maybe even police brutality abroad because his passport is suspected of being fake. It also pulls our country down as a miserable Third World country.
Disintegrating passports cannot be tolerated, by our officials if they really care for the well being of their fellow citizens and the image of our Republic.
We are now among the world’s economic-growth stars. We are, according to global economists, blessed with an economic miracle. Our region, Southeast Asia, is the globe’s most promising engine of global growth. And our country leads the other Asean countries in having the highest GDP growth rate.
Abroad, when an immigration officer and a traveler standing in line behind a Filipino see that our well-dressed and gentleman-looking businessman compatriot’s passport is falling apart and disintegrating, they will lose respect for the poor Filipino. They will remember that our country is the home of 50 million or more poor and dirt-poor people.