• P1,900 for passport renewal is a burden

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    Emeterio Sd. Perez

    INSTEAD of a new passport, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently issued me a certification as follows:

    “This is to certify that based on the records of an unclaimed passport at DFA Manila, the following data for Philippine Passport EC6772436 is available:”

    What followed were my name, date and place of birth, date and place of issue of passport, which was DFA Manila.

    In closing, Ricarte B. Abeljuela 3rd, acting passport division director, wrote:

    “This certification is issued this 19th day of May 2017 upon the request of Mr. Perez for whatever legal purposes it may serve.”

    The certification was typewritten on an official stationery of the “Department of Foreign Affairs,” which was translated to “Kagawaran ng Ugnayang Panlabas.”

    What happened to the renewal of my passport? I think I better go back to the DFA another day soon. Did I waste my half-day visit to the DFA in Pasay only to be issued a certification when I needed a new passport?
    I don’t think so.

    The DFA personnel who assisted me were only following the procedures for passport renewal. My only problem with that so far is that I need to return to the DFA office and fall in line and wait to be served again. I was told, though, not to worry because being a senior citizen, I would be in DFA’s priority list. Sometimes it pays to be 70.

    Questions

    Still, should the time come that I need to have a new passport, I would have to pay another P950. That would be paying for it twice, for a total of P1,900. I don’t mind paying that much if that is really necessary. But the question is, why should the DFA rush into canceling a passport that is still valid for the remainder of its five-year validity?

    How did the DFA arrive at a decision to issue Department Order No. 37-03, which empowered itself to cancel passports that remain “unclaimed after six months from date of issuance?” What happened to a passport’s five-year validity?

    In posing these questions, I wonder if the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also cancels the certificates of registration of new and existing stock corporations and partnerships.

    I hope not. Otherwise, who would invest in this country? It would be better for businesses to operate “underground” instead of legalizing their operations.

    Luckily for the DFA, I am not in a position to question the cancellation of my new passport. I am also not applying for a new one despite the issuance of a certification that it has my new passport on its file.
    Why doesn’t the DFA just release it, anyway, even if it has lapsed by more than a year when I claimed it recently.

    Similarly situated

    The questions are raised in this piece because I may not be alone in this predicament. There may be others who are similarly situated and who, for lack of time, failed to pick up their passports within a “period of six months from date of issuance.”

    Of course, DFA officials would argue that new and renewed passports that remain unclaimed by their owners within their regulatory period only clutter their files.

    What a way of reasoning for government workers who are paid by the public to run the government efficiently!
    As I am made to understand, the DFA also runs its operations as funded by taxpayers’ money. Otherwise, how would it pay for the salaries of its workers, top officials, consuls and ambassadors? The department has many ambassadors and consuls on the “payroll of taxpayers.”

    Despite the DFA’s use of the people’s money, its officials are able to justify their arbitrariness in canceling new and renewed passports.

    Lesson

    A lesson can be learned, though, from my experience in applying for a new passport that I did not really need urgently.

    How would the DFA’s arbitrariness affect thousands of overseas Filipino workers whose passports are up for renewal? Would they have P950 or P1,200 in their wallets to pay immediately for either a new or a renewed passport? If they happen to be too poor to cover that expense, they would be forced to borrow from loan sharks who prey on the poor but who don’t pay taxes on their unreported taxable income?

    Again, these questions are not necessarily addressed to Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano, who is our new DFA
    secretary. Rather, they are intended only to remind DFA officials of the need to resolve the issues mentioned above for the sake of the OFWs who contribute much to the government’s foreign exchange buffers.

    The government recognizes OFWs as heroes because of their role in beefing up the government’s foreign reserves but only in public statements issued by its top officials. What are heroes for if they are only seen as such in press releases?

    Finally, here is the final poser: Which should prevail? The DFA’s arbitrariness or a passport’s five-year validity? Just asking.

    esdperez@gmail .com

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