A universal increase of US$10 in the application fee for electronic passports has been implemented by Philippine diplomatic posts across the world, to the dismay of various groups especially in Hong Kong which has a high concentration of Filipino workers.
In an interview with GMANews.TV, Consul Vic Dimagiba of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong confirmed that from US$50 (about P2,225), the new electronic passport now costs US$60 (about P2,670).
The increase was implemented on new applications received since April 28 in the Chinese special administrative region.
Computed in the territory’s local currency, the e-passport now costs HK$510 (about P2,900) from HK$425 (about P2,400)
For passport applications in the Philippines, the rate was likewise increased from P500 to P950.
“The increase was based on the fact that the new electronic passport is more expensive than the old one, as it now has a microchip with data about the passport holder encoded on it, such as biometrics,” Dimagiba explained.
The United Filipinos (UNIFIL) in Hong Kong, however, decried the increase in what they deem as an “already overpriced” passport application rate.
In a statement , UNIFIL chair Dolores Balladares said it was “unnecessary and burdensome on the part of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)” for the Consulate General to charge more than triple the price of the passport in the Philippines.
“If the same passport can be obtained for a much lower price in the Philippines, charging overseas Filipinos three times as much is plain and simple government extortion,” Balladares said.
She added they have not been properly consulted about or informed about the increase, which was announced to Filipinos in Hong Kong just three days before the implementation.
Dimagiba said they are simply following the directive from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“If you compare prices with the US or Australian passports being issued here in Hong Kong, the Philippine e-passport price is way cheaper,” he added.
DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya refused to comment on the matter.
For her part, Balladares said that while they do not see any problem with the new passport’s improved technology, the 20% hike shows that the government ignores what overseas Filipino workers have to go through for their hard-earned money.
“Until the last breath of her presidency, Arroyo cannot seem to wind up from squeezing us dry, this time through the very expensive e-passport. As she sees us as profitable exploits, she will stop at nothing to milk OFWs,” she said.
Balladares said UNIFIL and other OFW organizations in Hong Kong have been campaigning for the lowering of the application fee.
In 2002, they succeeded in lowering the rate from HK$510 to HK$425, she added.
The UNIFIL-Migrante-HK has raised the demand to lower the passport fee for Filipinos abroad to a rate similar with that imposed on Filipinos in the Philippines.
On Sunday May 9, the group is set to launch a signature campaign to oppose the increase.—JV, GMANews.TV