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Opinion

Passport appointment and DFA

HOTSPOT - Mocha Uson - The Philippine Star

Marami nang repormang pinapatupad ngunit, opo, marami pang trabaho para mapaganda pa ang sistema. At sa susunod pang mga araw marami kaming gagawing mga reporma at announcements para sa ikabubuti ng ating mga kababayan.” (A lot of reforms are already being implemented but, yes, there are still more work to be done to improve the system. In the next days, we will implement a lot of reforms and will make announcements for the betterment of our countrymen.) – Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano

Amid the issues surrounding the current passport appointment system, we were able to talk to Sec. Cayetano and gave him a copy of the emails our office has been receiving from people who are complaining about the lack of available appointment slots. While some of the emails received revolve on requests for DFA to improve their current system, or just remove the system itself, there are also those who sent us screenshots of online accounts selling appointment slots. I am grateful for these people who are going out of their way just to inform us about those who are taking advantage of other people’s needs and selling something that is meant to be free in the first place. With this, I realized that aside from being a more efficient platform to seek help or complain, social media has also empowered the people in ending this brewing form of corruption in the bureaucracy, and in this context, DFA.

During the release of the passports with 10-year validity last Friday, Sec. Cayetano assured the public that the DFA personnel are doing their very best to address the issue on passport appointments by improving the system itself. He also dismissed speculations about a syndicate behind the selling of passport appointment slots. He likewise asked for help from those who claim to have the evidence to step out and help them in the rumored passport appointment scam.

According to Sec. Cayetano, selling appointment slots is only possible when travel agencies are provided with 1,200 slots per day, but this system has already been abolished last year. He now believes that those who are attempting to sell slots don’t even have slots at all. But still, he welcomes those who would want to file complaints especially if they have already fallen victims to this scheme.

Also last Friday, the foreign affairs secretary said that he is one of those who wanted to remove the appointment system, but at the same time he reiterated its advantages compared to the traditional walk-in system, wherein people tend to fall in a long line or camp out at night just for their passports to be processed.

“I’m the first one na gustong tanggalin ito dahil mahirap ayusin. But when you have a 600,000 increase in demand in one year... and we only have a capacity now of 9,000 a day, can you imagine if 10 percent of 600,000 ang pumila? That’s 60,000 people,” Sec. Cayetano said.

The current passport appointment system needs a lot of fine tuning, and there’s no denying that. But the efforts are all for a faster and more efficient service to a public necessity, so why choose to have it abolished and start anew? I believe that in order to help improve the DFA, we should be supportive of the DFA’s efforts in recognizing and undertaking steps to mitigate the problem at the earliest time.

As part of improving the current passport appointment system, Sec. Cayetano also said that additional slots will be allocated to give way to the unprecedented increase in passport applications. This also means that new overseas consular offices are targeted to open in places such as Houston, Copenhagen, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. The launching of four new passport-on-wheels (POW) mobile facilities that can accommodate up to 500 applicants, without them having the need to file their respective appointments online, will also be rolled out in different areas in Metro Manila as well as in places where accessing a consular office is difficult.

We may be seeing a lot of issues in passport appointment, but with their response, we can see clearly that the DFA is not sitting idly by. They are conscientious in crafting ways to better serve the people. Their efforts may not be perfect, but theirs is a work in progress.

It is also worth mentioning that there are those who are qualified to use the courtesy lane in passport applications, according to the DFA website:

• Senior citizens and one family member

• Persons with disabilities and one family member

• Children seven years old and below, their parents and minor siblings

•Pregnant women

• Solo parents and their minor children

• OFWs (even those who will be working abroad for the first time)

Lastly, I would like to urge the public to be vigilant in issues such as this. Let us know if you find fixers or people selling passport appointment slots. Do not support them by availing their service. Rather, let us be instrumental in putting an end to the embers of this possible form of corruption. In our little ways, we can contribute in cleaning this system and making it work to serve the needs of our fellow countrymen.

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