BAGUIO CITY — With about 60 percent of the passport applicants at the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) Baguio Consular Office being overseas Filipino workers (OFW), the agency announced on Wednesday that they are open to walk-in applicants.
“OFWs are very much welcome, provided they can prove to us that they have legitimate papers, like contracts or the identifications issued by the Department of Labor, valid Overseas Employment Certificates (OEC) or valid contracts and valid working visas,” DFA-Baguio Consular officer-in-charge Leonor Belgica said in a coffee forum on Wednesday.
Belgica said their office is coordinating with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to provide them the list of first-time OFWs, so they can be accommodated as walk-in passport applicants.
“We are working on it with POEA, just provide us the list of legitimate OFWs, and their requests can be processed immediately,” she said.
Belgica also corrected the notion that OFWs who have an urgent need for passports have to get an endorsement from an official to be attended to by the DFA.
“They do not need to first get an endorsement so that they can immediately get a passport,” she said. “They just have to come as a walk-in applicant and show the documents that can prove they are OFWs or first-time OFWs.”
The DFA, Belgica added, also provides special consideration to senior citizens with legitimate traveling companion, persons with special needs or disabilities and one legitimate companion, pregnant women, minors seven years old and below with parents
accompanying them, or a minor 17 years old and below.
Also provided a special lane are single and solo parents with identification or certification from the social welfare office; as well as government officials and employees with identification and certified by the DFA office, and other persons with an urgent need for a passport, as they will be representing the country in competitions or other important gatherings that will benefit the country, she said.
Belgica explained that the DFA continues to maintain the international system of operation to make sure that the passports it issues are not just legitimate but carry correct information about the person.
“We don’t live alone. We live with other countries so we need to standardize,” she said, pointing out that the Philippine passport is a document recognized by other countries.
“We want to make sure that what we issue are correct and bears the correct data,” which can be a reason for non-admission or entry into other countries, she said.
Belgica said DFA-Baguio operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and imposes only a PHP950 fee and PHP1,200 for overtime releasing. It also charges an additional fee of PHP350 to replace a lost passport.
She asked for understanding from the public as the DFA continues to implement several improvements in the agency’s passport system.
Earlier in the week, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque assured that the government is exerting all efforts to improve the process of passport applications and reduce the backlog to zero.
Roque cited the DFA’s plan to implement several improvements in the agency’s passport system to make it more convenient for the public.
“These include the streamlining of the passport application process, an improved and more user-friendly Online Appointment System, additional passport appointment slots and consular offices outside Metro Manila, the setting up of an e-Payment system, availability of OFW lanes, and the reduction of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System backlog from 33,000 to zero, among others,” he said.
The DFA has also deployed its Passport on Wheels (POW) vehicles to decongest the consular offices in Manila.
The POWs will be deployed to key locations nationwide.
Belgica clarified that POW requests are approved at the central office of the DFA, but they can receive and transmit requests from Cordillera.
Meanwhile, Malacañang welcomed the improved Philippine ranking in the 2018 Henley Passport Index, where the country placed 72nd among global countries with the most powerful passports.
This, Belgica said, all the more necessitates the DFA’s verifying data and making sure all Philippine passport holders are eligible. PNA-northboundasia.com