THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday started issuing passports that will be valid for 10 years and with no extra cost for applicants.
In a simple ceremony held at the DFA Office of Consular Affairs in Pasay City, DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the longer passport validity is expected to benefit overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly those who are assigned to areas far from an embassy or a consulate where they can apply for a new one.
It is also one way to address decongestion among various consular offices all over the country, Cayetano added.
The new passport with 10-year validity was in accordance with Republic Act 10928, which extends the validity of Philippine passports, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in August 2017.
Cayetano said there would be no changes in the passport processing fee but they are also considering coming up with an option wherein applicants would have to pay extra if they want to have more pages on their passport.
But apart from the new passport validity, he added, the DFA would be coming up with several measures that would help the agency increase its capacity to process passports and provide more slots under the online appointment system.
The DFA was criticized by Filipinos renewing their passports, including OFWs, because of difficulties getting a slot from its online appointment system.
There were allegations that travel agencies were able to get slots from the online appointment system and selling them to applicants.
Some even alleged that DFA insiders were conniving with syndicates offering applicants help with their appointment in exchange for cash.
But Cayetano said the DFA already removed all opportunities that would enable travel agencies and “fixers” to abuse the online appointment system.
He added that it is unlikely for a travel agency to sell appointment slots because the DFA already removed their allocation since last year.
The DFA used to allot 1,200 slots for travel agencies per day that they could offer to their clients but Cayetano said they decided to remove the allocation and open it to all applicants.
Meanwhile, the DFA, in its effort to decongest the consular office in Metro Manila and increase the daily capacity of passport applicants, will be opening nine new consular offices nationwide.
The new offices will be located in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; Santiago, Isabela; Malolos or Meycauayan, Bulacan; Calamba or San Pablo, Laguna; Dasmariñas City, Cavite; Antipolo City, Rizal; Oroquieta City or Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental; and Tagum, Davao del Norte.
Cayetano said the locations were selected based on the number of OFWs and frequent travelers residing in the area.
The DFA is also set to deploy starting next week four Passporting on Wheels (PoW) vehicles that are expected to help decongest the consular offices in Metro Manila.
Each POW vehicle has the capacity to process over 500 applicants daily, creating a total of 2,000 additional daily slots.
Cayetano said the POW is intended to bring the DFA’s passporting services closer to the public, especially those who do not have access to a consular office.
With the opening of new consular offices and mobile passport service, the department is expecting to increase its daily capacity from 9,000 to 15,500.
The DFA, Cayetano said, is also closely coordinating with the National Bureau of Investigation to catch unscrupulous individuals who are planning to victimize applicants by offering bogus appointments for cash.