MANILA, Philippines - Philippine officials in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates are ready to issue machine-readable passports (MRPs) to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) there but are still waiting for the green light from Manila.
Online news site Khaleej Times reported Sunday that consul general Benito Valeriano said they are yet to receive instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
He also noted that there is no instruction from Manila for its diplomatic posts, including in the United Arab Emirates, on the cost of the new passport.
In Manila, the new passport is still issued for P500 (regular processing) and P750 (urgent processing).
The e-passport system was introduced in Manila on June 18 last year, with the first 10,000 issued to diplomats and other public officials, to migrant workers who applied for new passports or renewed their passports in Manila, and to senior citizens and other government employees.
Since Sept. 17 last year, the new passport has been made available to anyone applying for a Philippine passport.
Valeriano said the e-passport system, once implemented, will greatly reduce passport tampering.
The Philippines' issuing of machine-readable passports comes two years ahead of the deadline set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to shift to e-passport systems by April 1, 2010.
Fifty-two of the 185 member-countries, which include the Philippines, are signatories to the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation with ICAO, a specialized agency of the United Nations charged with the safety of and development of standards for international civil aviation.
Valeriano noted that Philippine embassies and consulates all over the world have encountered problems with domestic helpers who tampered their birth dates on their passports so that they can work abroad.
Figures from the Philippine National Police, the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation showed that when the manually prepared passport was still in place, 19,894 cases of passport fraud were recorded in 2005, of which 11,155 were resolved.
But these dropped by some 22.3 percent to 15,456, of which 8,950 were resolved, in 2006. It further dropped by 37.3 percent in the middle of last year, after the introduction of machine-readable passport.
Valeriano said the reduction in passport tampering cases was because MRPs have special machine-readable passport zones that provide the name, gender, passport number, two check digits, nationality, date of birth, passport expiry date and personal identity number.
He added that features of the new passport include water-marked paper and colored fibers, ultraviolet-reactive inks, combination of security prints such as fine lines with modulation, guilloche design, art screen and dash effects and microtext, laser-perforated alpha-numeric serial numbers, ultra-thin security laminates with strong adhesion to prevent chemical, thermal or mechanical forgery, high-level origination and high image definition, high security animated and color switch optical imaging and nano-imaging. - GMANews.TV