In a bid to shorten the waiting time for appointments for electronic passports, the Department of Foreign Affairs will open its offices every Saturday starting July.
Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) personnel training for Saturday processing of such appointments is ongoing, according to the DFA.
An article posted on the DFA website said the DFA expects to shorten the waiting time for appointments to three weeks to one month.
OCA is also planning to open more Regional Consular Offices (RCOs) nationwide. The ePassport is already available in 19 RCOs.
It also said a number of Philippine foreign service posts are issuing the ePassport so Filipino workers, or migrants need not come home to have their passports renewed.
These overseas posts include Agana, Brunei Darussalam, Chicago, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Osaka, Ottawa, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, Toronto and Washington D.C.
Other foreign service posts are expected to issue the ePassport in due time.
Earlier, the DFA washed its hands off a supposed backlog in its processing of passports, and blamed some applicants’ failure to show up on appointed time for the “delay.”
“It is the waiting time to get an appointment that is longer due to a number of reasons including non-appearance …. Forty percent of individuals who have set appointments do not show up on the designated dates. OCA still accommodates these slots since these were not cancelled by the applicants,” the DFA said.
OCA said passports are released 10 days from application for expedited passports, 20 days for regular processes, and even less than 10 days for emergency cases.
It said the DFA’s processing and releasing time is faster compared to other countries’ passport processes. In the United States, it said passports are released four to six weeks from the date of application.
The OCA urged applicants to appear on their appointment schedules. If unable to show up, they should cancel their appointments earlier so the time slot could be used for other applicants.
Passport extension office
On the other hand, the DFA will re-open the Passport Extension Office (PEO) at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to address specific concerns of OFWs who are in Manila to renew their passports immediately to comply with their work contracts’ requirements.
PEO will initially accept 200 applicants daily. Those who cannot be accommodated on a particular day will be given on-the-spot appointment for the succeeding days.
“No prior appointments are required for OFWs applying for passports at the PEO,” the DFA said.
Those who may apply at the PEO include seafarers and sea-based workers and their family members, land-based Balik-Manggagawa (visiting or returning OFWs and their families, and DFA-accredited manning and recruitment agencies.
As a stop-gap measure, OCA is also extending the validity of expiring passports for a maximum period of up to two years.
OCA also attributed the two-month waiting time for appointments to the peak summer season and the huge demand for the Philippine ePassport.
It said that it has been accepting 3,500 applicants daily. The number, however, is expected to go down by July. — LBG, GMANews.TV