MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III should work to lower passport cost for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), organizations of Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong said.
Almost 10,000 OFWs signed a petition expressing this demand which the United Filipinos in Hong Kong-Migrante and Gabriela-Hong Kong submitted to the Philippine consulate general there.
HK-based OFWs applying for an e-passport have to pay HK$510 (around P3,000), up from the HK$425 (around P2,500) for the machine-readable passport introduced to HK OFWs in April this year, said Dolores Balladares in a news release.
“The price of passports in the Philippines is only P950 or about HK$160 but here, it is more than thrice that amount. There is no justifiable reason why passports for OFWs should be overpriced,” she added.
The group reported that even the previous amount of HK$425 is already very steep. Indonesian migrant workers, Balladares noted, pay only HK$58 (about P350) for their machine-readable passports.
“For years, the Philippine government has already earned millions of dollars from the overpriced passport. The so-called improvements that will result from the use of e-passports should not be used to again extort further from us,” she said.
Since May, the migrant group has been conducting a petition-signing campaign to cut passport cost. The submitted signatures, said Balladares, were only from their first wave of the campaign.
The demand is also part of the 10-point HK OFW agenda for the new administration. Balladares said that the agenda contain the most urgent and concrete issues of OFWs in Hong Kong, among them the scrapping of authentication fee and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s Omnibus Policies.
In a related development, the Department of Foreign Affairs said its extension office at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency require that OFWs applying for passports bring a copy of a Contract of Employment (for new OFWs), or Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) issued by POEA (to visiting OFWs), or a valid working visa, as proof of their status.
Applicants are served on a first-come-first-served basis, unlike by appointment at the main facility at the Aseana Business Park in Paranaque City.
The DFA said only eligible OFWs and their immediate family members are prioritized; this is to discourage non-OFWs who are ineligible. Non-OFWs are requested to file their application at the main consular building after getting an appointment.
Shortened passport processing and releasing time for emergency cases are provided to qualified applicants, including OFWs, after an evaluation by the Office of the Passport Director (telephone number 02 836-7759).