A look back of the delayed passport issue
By Dionesio C. Grava
At about this time last year a Philippine House panel headed by Representative Walden Bello which investigated passport processing in the Office of Consular Affairs came up with a list of recommendations to the Foreign Affairs Committee that included the termination of the services of the processing contractor.
At that time the headlines were screaming about the unacceptable delays in passport processing. Recruiters and the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) were most vocal in their complaints about the situation. In the LA scene Maning Satorre, a lawyer-journalist in the Philippines, wrote: “dear kuya diony, since you are a journalist here, isn’t it about time to ask what really happened to the problem of not releasing the renewed passports of filipinos who filed for the renewal and paid sixty dollars in march? people started claiming the renewed passport at the rp consulate at wilshire blvd. today and was simply told to wait another month because the facility in rp has been destroyed and is still being fixed. but why haven;t they clearly explained the problem.”
Two weeks later on May 27, 2011 Satorre wrote again to inform that it had been three months already and still no sign of the electronic passports. “i spoke with a consular office employee and he told me the problem is not the dept. of foreign affairs but the central bank. this statement i could hardly understand. maybe you can help explain this my friend,” he said. I agreed with him because I, too, had been waiting for a long period and still hadn’t received my renewed passport that time.
Earlier on May 11, 2011 the Embassy in Washington, DC, issued a Notice to Passport Applicants: “Due to the recent unprecedented increase in passport applications and other technical concerns, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila is currently experiencing a back log in the processing and releasing of passports.”
Presently, the web site of the DFA Passport Appointment System notifies that “you can now enjoy the convenience of getting an appointed date, time, and option for passport delivery… Applying for a Philippine passport is now efficient and world class.” A happy development if true. However, it still cautions that the number of processing days may vary depending on the location of the Regional Consular Office and that “Power failures, technical breakdowns and natural calamities may delay the release of passports… NO REFUND of fees will be made on account of these unforeseen delays.”
This space takes a look back of the passport delay issue because of some documents received that tend to indicate that the inconveniences and aggravation of so many of our folks could have been avoided. One of the letters furnished by Donn Duero, the conscientious OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) official who had been forced out of service because of his whistle blowing activities, shows that Ronald A. Wilfert, president of a company dealing in a state-of-the art e-passport technology, had submitted a proposal to DFA to modernize the present passport program of the Philippines.
“We offered a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) at no cost to the government on March 27, 2006, with a goal to implement a machine-readable, ICAO specification, passport with state-of-the-art security features. Unfortunately this proposal was brushed aside by the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Wilfert wrote President Benigno Aquino on Aug. 24, 2011.