MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has vowed to make passport application and other consular services more accessible to the public.
"To make our 114th founding anniversary more meaningful, we are making a promise to the Filipino people and that promise is to make it easier for them to apply for their passports," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
Del Rosario said the DFA Office of Consular Affairs has until the end of the year to put in place a call center that would enable passport applicants to choose their appointment date and time at any of the DFA consular office nationwide.
"This appointment system and other measures that the DFA has been taking during the past several months will significantly reduce if not eliminate the long lines that have been associated with the passport application process," del Rosario said.
The proposed appointment system will complement the ongoing transfer of DFA consular offices to shopping malls nationwide under Public-Private Partnership arrangements. This, he said, will save the government an estimated P1.04 billion in operating and other costs in the next 10 years.
He expects the DFA to open the first 13 consular offices in Metro Manila and other key cities and at the same time conclude negotiations for similar arrangements for the hosting of consular offices in other parts of the country.
The new guidelines also require all mall-based DFA offices to operate beyond regular office hours from Mondays to Saturdays to allow them to accommodate applicants who could not afford to be absent from work or school. These offices will also be open for three hours on Sundays to allow applicants to claim their passports.
In addition, the DFA head also ordered the decentralization of authentication services and to make this service available in Metro Manila and San Fernando, Pampanga; Cebu and Davao.
The guidelines also cover the conduct of special and mobile passport services and the accreditation of travel agencies that would allow them to continue assisting applicants until December 31, 2012.
"All the steps we have been taking during the past several months are in line with our commitment to bring government closer to the people," he said.
The DFA has no plans of increasing its passport fees, which are currently pegged at P950 for regular processing and P1,200 for expedited processing.