Last Thursday, I renewed my passport which was due to expire in October 2014. One of my daughters, who is handling the renewal of our family visas for the United States, thought that my passport was valid until 2015. However, through sheer serendipity, I came across the photocopies of my passport while filing some files and was rather surprised that it was only good for two more months!
My impression on the renewal of passports was that it would be a breeze since the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has now made it convenient for Filipinos in Metro Manila who will either apply for their passports for the first time or have them renewed. Since October 2012, the DFA has put up satellite offices in malls like SM Manila, SM MegaMall, Robinsons Galleria, Ali Mall in Cubao, and Metro Alabang in Muntinlupa.
The convenience of passport applications being done in the malls in the past two years is a far cry from those days when you had to go to the DFA office on Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City and later on to the DFA Aseana along Macapagal Avenue where there was no place to park your vehicle except at the restaurants across the main road. Today, there are five DFA satellite offices operating in the Metro Manila area.
However, the waiting and processing time remains the same at about three hours. In short, you lose half a day or four hours just for your passport processing: three hours being inside the DFA satellite office and another hour for travel time. Ms. Karen Amodia, a 27-year woman employed in Laguna Techno Park in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, took a half-day off from work. She arrived at 2:30 PM for her 3:00 PM “appointment” and got finished at 5:45 PM.
The waiting time for your “appointment” alone is at least one hour. This means that if you have a 3:00 PM “appointment,” you are instructed by the DFA website to be there 30 minutes early or at 2:30 PM. However, you can only get inside the DFA office for processing after one hour to one hour and a half. This means the 3:00 PM batch that began waiting at 2:30 PM started entering the DFA enclosed office at 3:30 PM up to 4:00 PM.
Once inside, the passport processing from Step 1 to Step 3 will take you another 1.5 to 2.0 hours. All told, three hours there at the DFA South at Metro Alabang for your passport application. Amazing that the leadership of DFA until today has not addressed the issue of spending three long hours at their satellite offices.
The solution to long processing time
There were almost 1,000 passport applicants last Thursday at the DFA South in Metro Mall Alabang in Muntinlupa City. So how can the leadership of DFA cut the waiting and processing time of three hours? The answer is quite simple and does not involve “rocket science.” Cut the number of applicants per day and you reduce the processing period. How simple can it get!
For instance, putting in a daily quota of 700 applicants can easily reduce the processing period of three hours to only two hours. So how come the DFA cannot think of doing it? It will be not be a big problem because the other 300 applicants can just be moved to the next day. So the possible delay is only one day at most.
The solution to processing time is actually taken up in a course in Operations Research called “Queuing Theory” because it is a “mathematical study of waiting lines or queues” (Wikipedia). It’s about computing for the time that it would take to finish a certain task or process. Its application can be from tollbooths to factories (manufacturing) and shops to offices or hospitals, such as in providing service or paying bills.
The early origins of the Queuing Theory began more than a hundred years ago in 1909 when Danish mathematician and engineer Agner Krarup Erlang worked on his models with the Copenhagen telephone exchange. Later on, the interest in its other applications spread after World War II in the late 1940s. Today, its vast applications like in telecommunications traffic are studied in Operations Research, a subject offered in courses in Industrial Engineering or Industrial Management Engineering.
Why the myriad passport applications?
The DFA website says that a maximum of 1,000 applications are accepted in their six offices in Metro Manila. Then there are the DFA regional offices across the country plus additional DFA satellite offices, such as in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, which was opened three years ago in 2011 due to the many passport applicants from the province who work abroad as OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) like the Filipino mariner or seaman.
Easily, there are about 8,000 passport applications per day or about 180,000 per month or at least two million passports issued per annum. Today, there may be 20 million Filipinos with passports, including our compatriots who either are holding dual citizenships or are immigrants to other countries.
The demand for Philippine passports is mainly due to Filipinos who are either working abroad as OFWs or migrating to their progressive adoptive countries. There are also those – like the two women I met yesterday – who applied for their passports not for travel or holidays, but to be ready when the opportunity presents itself either as an OFW or as an immigrant to America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.
The official statistics of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show that more Filipinos have left the Philippines as OFWs in the past three years (at 5.0 million) under the Aquino administration. Just another proof that the impressive economic growth in 2013 hardly means anything in terms of employment generation—the real inclusive growth!