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Dumaguete City, Philippines Friday, July 29, 2016
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Dumaguete DFA
welcomes passport plans

The Department of Foreign Affairs Regional Consular Office in Dumaguete City has welcomed the announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte to institute changes, particularly on the issuance of passports.

DFA-RCO Dumaguete acting OIC Carol Constantino yesterday said that even before the State of the Nation Address of Duterte where he made these pronouncements, the DFA had already started discussing the possibility of extending the validity of the Philippine passport.

Duterte announced in his first SONA Monday that he wanted the validity of the Philippine passport extended from five years to 10 years.

He also wanted a shorter processing time than the minimum 10 days it takes to obtain a passport.

Constantino said it is not the DFA but Congress that can make the President's announcement a realization.

It was very clear in the President's SONA speech that he was directing the proposed reform at Congress, Constantino added.

She said it would take a lengthy and tedious process to have this proposal take effect, as there are certain concerns, especially on security features of this particular government document, to be considered.

Nothing can be done about that at the moment, because the consular office in Dumaguete has not received any instructions to do otherwise, Constantino said.

After the SONA, the Dumaguete consular office has since received inquiries and even “demands” from its clients, some insistent, on extended validity of passports and shorter waiting time, she disclosed.

Some clients, it appears, have only heard or read a few lines of the SONA and do not quite clearly understand government processes, she lamented.

They think that what the President said can happen overnight, she added.

Constantino said she is mulling the idea of posting photocopies of the President's SONA, especially that concerning the DFA, at the regional consular office in Dumaguete.

On the issue of fast tracking the release of passports, she explained that 10 working days is the normal time allotted for express applications while 20 working days is allowed for regular applications.

An express application costs P1,200 while a regular application is pegged at P900, Constantino said.

Since it opened in Dumaguete City October 19, 2015, the DFA regional consular office has so far encountered minimal problems, Constantino said, unless something happens to the transmission machines.

She said the DFA does not have control in the printing of passports, which is being done by the APO Production Unit Inc., a state-run printing office.

Last June, the office had run across a problem with some passports that were poorly printed and that these had to be returned to the APO, she said.

As to the problem of applicants spending the night on the streets or waiting in long lines, this does not apply to the Dumaguete RCO, she assured.

It would take about 15 minutes for an applicant to process an application, from the time that that person enters the DFA RCO in Dumaguete, located at the 2nd floor of the Robinsons Place shopping mall.

The office caters to clients in Dumaguete City, the province of Negros Oriental, Siquijor province, Dipolog and other nearby areas in Mindanao.

Because it only has two transmission machines, it can accommodate about 150 applicants a day.

Meanwhile, three clients interviewed yesterday said they were happy and satisfied with the services of the DFA-RCO.

Angeline Ong, a young mother, went to pick up her new passport, which she said took longer than usual to obtain.

She said the process prior to the actual application had slowed her down, because as a homemaker, she didn't have the government identification credentials that the DFA had required, such as SSS.

A nun, who did not want to be identified, commended the DFA regional consular office for making it easier to process a renewal.

Genesa Estrada, who hails from Dumaguete, applied for a passport yesterday. She expressed satisfaction that it took less than 30 minutes for her to process her (express) application and was told to return on August 11.*JFP


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