• DFA scraps passport processing services for travel agencies

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    TRAVEL agencies will no longer offer passport processing services to their clients after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) decided to remove the 1,200 appointment slots allotted daily to travel agencies.

    The move, on the other hand, may benefit regular passport applicants because it could open up additional passport appointment slots, cutting short the waiting time of applicants.

    In a statement, Ricarte Abejuela 3rd, acting director of the Passport Division of the Office of Consular Affairs, said the policy which was put in place as early as August, removed the 1,200 appointment slots reserved daily to travel agencies and added it to the slots allotted to regular applicants.

    With the new policy, Abejuela said clients of travel agencies would undergo the same procedures for regular applicants when applying for or renewing their passports.

    “We want to give back the appointment slots to the Filipino public,” Abejuela said in a statement.

    To make sure that the new policy would be strictly enforced, the DFA also prohibited travel agency staff, including liaison officers, from entering the premises of consular offices to accompany or assist clients.

    In August, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Frank Cimafranca of the Office of Consular Affairs reported that an additional 94,350 slots were opened from July to August.

    Of the slots that were opened, 62,450 were because of an increase in consular offices’ appointment quotas, while the remaining 31,900 came from the cleaning up of bogus appointments created by unscrupulous individuals.

    The additional slots have been complemented by an increase in personnel in charge of processing documents.

    He cited as an example the DFA’s main processing center for passports at Aseana where there was a 73.6 percent increase in capacity to accept and process daily appointments–from 1,900 to 3,300 after adding personnel.

    Travel agency owners have expressed their concern over the new policy of the DFA because of the possible negative effects it would bring to their income.

    It was learned that 15 percent of the revenue stream of most travel agencies were sourced from passport processing services.

    Courtesy lane privileges given to DFA employees would also be limited to their immediate family members — parents, spouse, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law.

    “We all need to make changes for everybody’s sake. We really want to give back the courtesy lane to those who are entitled to it,” Abujuela said, referring to senior citizens, persons with disabilities, pregnant, solo parents, children 7 years old and below, and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

     

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