MANILA, Philippines—A week after the Department of Foreign Affairs opened its satellite office at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, a recruitment leader on Monday said there is “no improvement” in the passport processing for overseas Filipino workers.
But Assistant Secretary Jaime Victor Ledda of the DFA-Office of Consular Affairs (Oca) said the appointment system has improved by more than 50 percent. He said those who sought appointment online were scheduled for within a month.
Previous online appointments got a September schedule.
Jackson Gan, vice president for marketing of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters Inc. (FAME), said the OFWs his group is sending abroad are required to present their employment contracts, which are only issued after they have their passports.
“It’s a case of the chicken and the egg,” he said.
Ledda, however, pointed out that his office needs to be able to define the OFW. “Otherwise, anybody can just say he is an OFW,” he stressed.
Gan suggested that the DFA-Oca fix the entire system for all passport applicants and not just for OFWs, instead of piecemeal solutions.
“If they need more manpower and equipment, then so be it. The passport (system) is revenue-generating so it should be given priority,” he said.
Gan also suggested that major regional consular offices such as those in Clark, Cebu, and Davao be provided facilities to produce the e-passport in their localities. Right now, RCO’s only capture the data from their computers and send these via e-mail to the Oca office in Paranaque for production of the E-passports.
He said this adds to the delay in the production of the passports and the long waiting time for appointments.
In a related development, mobile passport officials are accepting fake documents like birth certificates from applicants particularly those in Mindanao, recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said.
Some licensed agencies pay mobile passport officials a fixed bribe of P3,500 per passport applicant to fast-track the processing and to look the other way when first-time overseas workers submit fake documents.
Mobile passport processing is done by RCOs in case of large numbers of applicants. Data-capturing computers are brought to the area for the convenience of the workers and the agencies requesting the service.
“The Office of Consular Affairs should look in these reports because the integrity of the e-passport is being compromised by such actions which are a source of graft for those officials,” Geslani said.
By Veronica Uy