MANILA, Philippines?The Department of Foreign Affairs is working to cut down passport processing time to 30 minutes, as it formally inaugurated on Monday the new building of the Office of Consular Affairs on Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City.
"We are working hard to put everything in place and fulfill our target of shortening the application process to 30 minutes," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said during the inauguration, as all consular services?passport, visa, digitized consular records, and documents authentication?become fully operational and integrated into one building.
Felipe Carino, director of DFA?s passport services, said from entering the building, and through the three stages of processing, payment, and encoding, the target is 30 minutes.
?Right now, not everyone gets through in 30 minutes. Most (of those who don?t go through in half an hour) are those with issues, like those who don?t go at their appointed time. We also don?t turn away people,? he said.
Carino thus encouraged passport applicants to come on their appointed time, not too early or too late.
The passport official said non-appearance rate among those who?ve scheduled is very high, sometimes as high as 90 percent.
He said his office is still studying the system, which has received and processed between 2,000 and 3,000 passport applications a day, so that it can rationalize the scheduling.
?We notice that there is a sudden rush during lunch time and lull times toward the afternoon,? Carino said, adding that office hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Guests during the formal opening of the building were retired Supreme Court chief justice Artemio Panganiban, former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar, Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) chairperson (DBP) Patricia Sto. Tomas, and Mrs. Rosie Lovely Romulo.
During the occasion, Romulo lauded the valuable assistance of other government agencies in the improvement of DFA?s consular services?Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which has been providing DFA?s passports for the past 25 years, the DBP, and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Romulo thanked DBP?s Sto. Tomas and CoA?s David for providing the DFA ?with the lease purchase agreement to get this building.? He also thanked the DPWH for its help in the building?s construction.
Because of these, he said, the DFA is ready to better serve Filipinos.
"They do not need to come to Manila to get a passport or avail of consular services. Instead, they could just go to any of our regional consular offices throughout the country and foreign embassies and consulates around the world to avail of the same efficient and comfortable services,? Romulo said.
?We are even bringing our services closer to the Filipino people, as we have mobile passport services going to the barangays and municipalities," he added.
Also present during the launch were Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Carmelita Dimson, members of the BSP-Monetary Board, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, DFA officials, and other guests.
During the event, presidential awards were given to five persons: DBP Sto. Tomas was bestowed the Order of Lakandula, with Rank of Bayani, while Presidential Medals of Merit were given to DPWH Undersecretary Manuel Bonoan, Office of the President (OP) Undersecretary Pilita Venturanza, OP Assistant Secretary Lynn Danao-Moreno, and DFA-OCA Assistant Secretary Renato Villapando.
The new facility is located at the corner of Bradco and Macapagal Avenues in Aseana Business Park, Paranaque City, a few minutes away from the Mall of Asia.
The acquisition of the P530-million, 7,000-square-meter, and four-story building was realized with the assistance of the DBP.
Meanwhile, the DFA reminds passport applicants to avail of the appointment system to ensure quick and comfortable service. Applicants can check the passport requirements and secure an appointment by logging in at www.passport.com.ph or calling hotline (02) 737-1000. They may also call the DFA helplines at telephone numbers (02) 831-8971, (02) 551-4437, (02) 551-4402, (02) 834-4855 and (02) 834-4424.
Applicants are no longer required to bring photographs since they will have their pictures taken using ePassport data-capturing machines.
Only those with confirmed appointments will be accommodated at the new facility at this time.Veronica Uy