Wednesday, June 1, 2016

DFA creates dedicated passport center for OFWs

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has created a dedicated passport application center for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that will be operational very soon.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the new center will be housed at the DFA’s existing consular office at Robinson’s Galleria across the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration – the main government agency tasked to monitor and supervise recruitment agencies – in Ortigas.
“This shows that we are giving importance to our OFWs and the contribution that they give to the country’s economy,” Jose told a press briefing on Tuesday.
The DFA’s Robinson’s Galleria office, Jose said, will be used exclusively for OFWs.
“They just have to cross EDSA from the POEA office for their passport application. It’s more convenient,” he said.
Compared to regular passport applicants, Jose said OFWs need not get an appointment online to apply for a passport, making the process easier and faster for them.
“This policy applies to all OFWs – old and new,” Jose said, but did not say the exact day as to when the center will become fully operational.
“It will be very soon,” he said.
In the meantime, courtesy lanes for exclusive use of OFWs in DFA consular offices nationwide will continue to process the workers’ passport applications.
The Philippines is one of the world’s top labor-exporting nations with about 8.6 million skilled and unskilled workers scattered abroad.
Called by the government as the country’s “modern-day heroes,” remittances from Filipino migrant workers constitute a significant source of the country’s foreign exchange as they send home over $20 billion per year.
Improved services
In the same press briefing, Jose bared additional measures that will improve passport services, including a new appointment system wherein no-show passport applicants on the date of their application will be banned from securing a new slot for 30 days.
Last week, Foreign Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the practice of disregarding the schedule given by the Department of Foreign Affairs consular division has resulted to a two-month waiting period for hundreds of applicants.
Almendras said 47 percent of people who applied for appointment do not show up on the date of their appointment.
The DFA receives at least 15,000 passport applications daily.
Jose said the DFA has also added 50 additional slots on top of the 2400 online passport appointments allocated daily. He added that the department has already addressed technical problems that has caused delays in the releasing of passports.
“We experienced birthing pains on our new e-passport system and have started to fix this,” Jose said, adding the DFA’s main consular office in Aseana, Macapagal Ave. in Paranaque has been reconfigured “for better workflow.”
Complaints
On complaints regarding delays in the releasing of passports, Jose said among the causes are identity theft, mistaken identities and identities matching with that of wanted fugitives on the government’s lookout list.
“If you don’t encounter any hit we will be able to release your passport. If you encounter a hit that’s a different story altogether because we have enhanced security checks and those who will encounter hits will experience a delay in the releasing of their passports,” Jose said.
Those with mistaken identities, he said, would need to present additional security documents, such as a National Bureau of Investigation clearance, to prove that they are not outlaws identified in the government’s watchlist.
Meanwhile, Jose said the DFA has already phased out the green-colored and machine readable passports and will have to file a new application and bring documents, such a National Statistics Office birth certificate and other requirements found on the DFA website
“This will be considered new applications,” he said.
Only holders of electronic passports will be renewed, Jose said. —KBK, GMA News

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