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Migrante hits high passport cost

MANILA, Philippines—A militant group representing overseas Filipino workers denounced  Saturday the “extremely high” fees for the renewal or replacement of lost e-passports, saying  the government was “making a killing” with these exorbitant fees.

In a statement, Migrante International said the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia charged overseas Filipino workers  240 Saudi rials (or P2,700) to get the newly required e-passport.

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“Comparatively speaking, the P2,700 (240 SR) e-passport fee renewal charge by PH embassy in Saudi is triple higher than the fee if one would get his passport renewed at DFA consular office in the Philippines,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

“Clearly, the embassy and the DFA are making a killing on us! We could understand why it should not be made the same rate as to the rate in the Philippines, but  200 percent to 300 percent higher is highly questionable,” he added.

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Monterona said that to replace a lost e-passport, an overseas Filipino worker  has to pay a total of 700 Saudi rials or around P7,800.

“(But) 700 Saudi rials is less than a hundred of an OFW-domestic worker’s one-month salary of 800 Saudi rials,” Monterona said.

“We are calling on the PH embassy, the DFA, and the Aquino administration to reconsider the reduction of the consular fees so as not to put additional burden to our already over-burdened OFWs and their dependents,” he added.

Monterona said the government should take into account the “spiraling cost” of commodities not only in the Philippines but also in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.

“Thus, a reduction in consular fees will be a relief to struggling OFWs and their dependents. I am not sure if the consular fees collected by various diplomatic posts are subject to (Commission on Audit) accounting procedures,” Monteerona said.

“If not, then Congress should look at it during budget deliberations. The government has been over-charging OFWs and yet its proposed budget allocation for OFWs direct services in various concerned government agencies is too little,” he added.

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