MANILA, Philippines — A House panel has approved a bill seeking the printing of the country’s map – including the West Philippine Sea and Sabah – on passports.
The committee on foreign affairs approved in virtual meeting last Thursday the substitute bill seeking to amend the Passport Act by printing the country’s map on the travel document. Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez authored the substitute bill.
Rodriguez said his House Bill 6399 “aims to emphasize and insist on our victory on the West Philippine Sea over China in the International Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, and our legal and historical rights over Sabah.”
“The inclusion of the map on our travel document is a strong statement that we are asserting our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea and our EEZ,” the chairman of House constitutional amendments committee and former law dean said.
Apart from the amendment, also approved by the panel chaired by Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Ann Hofer was the proposal to allow online application of senior citizens for passport issuance and renewal.
“This will do away with personal appearance by seniors in Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) consular offices,” Rodriguez said.
He said the bill also provides for an emergency travel document to be issued to any Filipino citizen with urgent travel but who has lost his or her passport or whose passport has expired.
It likewise criminalizes the illegal withholding of passports by anyone, he said.
The amendatory measure imposes stiffer penalties on violators. If the offender is an alien, he would be deported and blacklisted after serving of sentence.
The consolidated bill also seeks to grant millions of senior citizens a 32 percent passport discount.
Rodriguez said the discount would apply not only on the cost of the passport but to processing fees as well.
“By law, senior citizens at present get a price reduction of 20 percent discount plus 12 percent value added tax exemption on medicines,” he explained.
The privileges for senior citizens in passport application were proposed by Rodriguez and La Union Rep. Sandra Eriguel “to honor the late Rep. Francisco ‘Jun’ Datol of the Senior Citizens party-list” who recently died reportedly due to COVID-19.
“He was vice chairman of the committee and was author of a bill to give a lifetime validity of passports issued to senior citizens,” Rodriguez recalled.