OFWs may apply for absentee voting when renewing passports
MANILA, Philippines—Overseas Filipino workers applying to renew their passports at the Department of Foreign Affairs may also register as absentee voters at the same time.
The DFA and the Commission on Elections are set to sign on Monday a memorandum of agreement to establish an overseas absentee voting (OAV) registration center at the DFA’s Office of Consular Affairs, Aseana Business Park, Macapagal Avenue corner Bradco Avenue, Tambo, Parañaque City.
This is expected to encourage more OFWs to participate and exercise their right to suffrage in the 2013 elections.
The DFA said 88,500 Filipinos have so far registered in various Philippine diplomatic missions as new overseas absentee voters.
OAV registration centers in the Philippines, including those located at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, have added 72,653 to the number of registrants in the form of outbound overseas Filipinos since February.
“This brings the overall total of new OAV registrants to 161,153,” the DFA said.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has directed the DFA’s foreign diplomatic posts to intensify their OAV registration programs.
DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez earlier said Philippine diplomatic offices abroad “continue to exert all possible efforts to increase the number of OAV registrants and voters for the 2013 national elections.”
“Our foreign service posts have touched base with Filipino communities, civil society groups, as well as church and other Filipino groups,” he said.
They have “launched multimedia campaigns using various social networking sites, among others,” Hernandez said.
Meanwhile, the DFA said applying for a passport should become easier and more convenient before the end of the year as it has released new guidelines that will allow the DFA to more effectively respond to the consular needs of the public.
The new guidelines include the establishment of a nationwide appointment system that will simplify the passport application process and make it easier for the public.
Del Rosario said he has given the Office of Consular Affairs until December 31 this year to put in place a dedicated call center that would allow passport applicants to choose the date and time they would like to be accommodated in any DFA consular office nationwide.
“This appointment system and other measures that the DFA has been taking during the past several months will significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the long lines that have been associated with the passport application process,” Del Rosario said.
He said the proposed appointment system will complement the ongoing transfer of DFA consular offices to shopping malls nationwide under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements that, it is claimed, will save the government an estimated P1.04 billion in operating and other costs in the next 10 years.
According to the new guidelines, the DFA is targeting to open the first 13 consular offices in Metro Manila and other key cities before the end of the year.
All DFA mall-based offices are required to operate beyond regular office hours from Mondays to Saturdays to accommodate applicants who cannot be absent from work or school. They will be open for three hours on Sundays to accommodate applicants.
Del Rosario has also ordered the decentralization of authentication services and to make this service available in Metro Manila and San Fernando, Pampanga; Cebu and Davao.
The guidelines also cover the conduct of special and mobile passport services and the accreditation of travel agencies that would allow them to continue assisting applicants until December 31.
“All the steps we have been taking during the past several months are in line with our commitment to bring government closer to the people,” said Del Rosario.
He said that, despite the improvement in consular services, the DFA has no plans of increasing its passport fees, which are currently pegged at P950 for regular processing and P1,200 for expedited processing.
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