Recruitment agencies in the Philippines are appealing to authorities to bring back the priority lanes for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are applying for passports, saying delays in the release of passports had cost them job orders in the first half of 2015.
"First six months of 2015, we lost about 25,000 jobs, some of them because of passport [delays], some of them because one or two markets closed," industry consultant Manny Geslani said in a report on GMA News TV's "Balitanghali" on Wednesday.
He said the problem may persist unless the issue on the delay in the issuance of passports to OFWs is addressed.
"The lack of passports is really detrimental to the recruitment industry because as much as we want to deploy people, if the demand is there but our supply, the people, are not ready with their passports, we have to wait for their passports," Geslani said.
OFW courtesy lanes expedited the release of new passports and passport renewals for Filipino migrant workers from 15 days to seven. They were discontinued in 2014.
Jennifer del Rosario, senior documentation and processing officer of LBS Recruitment Solutions, said the month-long delays have soured their reputations with foreign employers.
"Yung effect namin, sa employers, siyempre hindi siya maganda dahil nga may delay po dito sa pag-process namin," she said.
Del Rosario added OFWs were also being inconvenienced and short-changed by the delay in passport issuance. "Imbes na mapapaalis na sila mas earlier, imbes na kumikita na nga sila ng mas maaga, nakakapag-trabaho na sila 'dun, nade-delay pa," she said.
The DFA, meanwhile, vowed to process its backlog of more than 42,000 passports in 15 to 20 days.
"Even on weekends, nag-dagdag tayo ng mga shifts para patuloy ang production para mahabol 'yung backlog," DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said on "Balitanghali."
Passport extension offered
He added: "May mga remedials na tayong isinalagay. Unang-una dito yung pag-extend ng validity ng mga passports that are expiring."
In a statement Wednesday, the DFA said applicants for passport renewals in the Philippines and abroad may avail of the extension of the validity of their passports for one to two years and for free.
The extension will be processed and released within the same day of application, it said, adding passport extensions will be available only until the end of 2015. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News