Cayetano: DFA taking steps to address passport processing delay

Philippine passports (Photo from DFA website)

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has vowed to normalize the passport processing system by June when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) doubles its capacity to process applications.

During the House committee hearing into the passport application woes on Tuesday, Cayetano said the major cause of delay in passport processing was the “wide gap between the demand for passports and DFA’s capacity to receive and process applications.”

To address this, he said the DFA is set to implement reforms that would include the opening of eight new consular offices, as well as the deployment of additional mobile passport on wheels.

“Ang Kongreso last year pa naglagay ng pondo this year to open eight new offices. Meron kami ngayong four na van, magiging 10 sa June, na may limang makina na kayang 500 per van na applications per day,” he said.

“Pag nagawa yan halos madodoble yung aming capacity, mababwasan yung processing time sa appointment… So I’m expecting na by June, 60-80 percent of the problem will be solved at di na gaano katagal ang hintayan,” he said.

Upon DFA request, he said Facebook had also taken down, and would continue to take down, pages and sites fraudulently selling online appointment slots to passport applicants.

At the same inquiry, former DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. lamented how “disadvantageous to the government” the joint venture agreement entered to by the government printer APO Production Unit Inc. with the United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC), a privately-owned printing press.

APO supposedly entered into a joint venture agreement (JVA) with the private printer without the DFA’s expressed approval.

Yasay said the APO-UGEC “did not have the technical capability” to print “sensitive materials” like passports, but he had no choice but to continue with the “emergency measure” agreement since doing otherwise may disrupt the processing of passport applications.

He said he recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the termination of the agreement back then. But the JVA remains in effect until now.

READ: House probe sought on passport problems

Cayetano for his part said that when he assumed office, the Office of the Executive Secretary already took over the probe into the agreement.

He said the most important concern was “to not disrupt” the passport processing system.