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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, January 15, 2019
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with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Passport renewal challenge 2


Let us continue the saga of my passport renewal that I started narrating in my previous article.

After securing and confirming an appointment that will take place around 40 days after making one, the next step of the passport renewal challenge is securing the necessary documents.

In our case the DFA required us to get new NSO birth certificates. We considered this requirement atrocious and silly when we read about it because our current passports that contain that same verified information should do but since ordinary citizens cannot do anything when government agencies make demands, we had no choice but to comply.

I would find out much later that the reason the DFA needs NSO birth certificates is that the previous passport contractor allegedly ran off with all our passport data. The DFA was basically the victim of a critical data breach, losing the personal data we had entrusted it with. DFA Secretary TeddyboyLocsin’s nonchalant explanation of the serious matter and throwing of blame on the “Yellows” almost 3 years after Duterte’s “best and brightest” took over government deserves a separate article so I will not waste more time on that disgusting display of irresponsible incompetence of our DFA when it comes to our personal data. All I can say is I used to be proud to be associated with that Secretary of Foreign Affairs who hails from Silay and is said to have spent his childhood up a stone’s throw away from my grandparent’s home. Unfortunately for Silaynons, this particular one has turned out to be one of the more disappointing people in the developments of recent years. This passport data breach and thenonchalant and arrogant attitude SFA Locsin has shown in facing such a serious problem adds to that disappointment. It makes me wonder if his relatives in Silay who are mostly decent and uncompromising people are still proud of his antics.

Anyway, even if our current passports contained correct information and we had old NSO documents in our possession, the way we understood the requirements was that new NSO documents were needed so we had to go get ourselves new ones. After all, one cannot afford to make silly mistakes when appointments take 40 days to make.

We checked out the internet and found that NSO documents are available at nsohelpline.com. Delivered birth certificates and marriage certificates are P365 per. We needed 4 birth certificates for each family member and 1 marriage certificate per parent so we spent another P2190 on those requirements that became a requirement because of the DFA’s epic failure to properly safe keep the Filipino people’s personal data. What a profitable government-incompetence based racket.

We were disappointed to discover later on that NSO documents are available at our local NSO office for only around P160, if you can get there early to avoid the queue. If we only researched better, we could’ve saved a lot. But luckily for those who will be renewing their passports in the near future, it would seem that the DFA will no longer require NSO documents as their way of pacifying the Filipino people after their shortcoming that is the reason for the silly requirement was discovered.

As for our NSO documents that were going to be delivered via courier, I made the mistake of sending it to my grandparent’s house because my wife is always out of town and I had a new office address. I failed to leave a letter of authorization so they wouldn’t deliver to my aunt even if she was the listed as the requesting party. That meant having to go to BREDCO to pick up the undelivered documents. That’s another lesson learned that I’m hoping my handful of readers can learn from.

If it hadn’t been for the required NSO documents, all we would’ve needed to renew our passports was the appointment and the old passports. But that’s life. When government messes up, the people adjust. Change was supposed to come but I guess it’s a little bit late.

On the day of our appointment, we got to the DFA a few minutes before our 4pm appointment. There was a line of people waiting outside so we gave our docs to the guard and then had our kids go get some snacks as we had just picked them up from school.

Surprisingly, we didn’t have to wait long and we were called inside around our appointed time. We had to make the kids wait outside to finish their snack. I did have to go back to the car to get their school IDs because it was apparently another requirement. It’s a good thing we went on a school day. I don’t know why that is needed as we already had their passports but as my motto with dealing with government goes: it doesn’t matter what you think of their requirements, just follow their instructions.

Anyway, after a 40ish day wait, we were at DFA Bacolod before 4pm and finished our ordeal before 6pm. Most of the wait was for the photo taking and biometrics. We are supposed to claim our 10-year valid passports in 10 days so that hopefully means unless one of us loses a passport, we won’t have to deal with the DFA again for another decade.

All in all it wasn’t so bad but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully our DFA Secretary who is currently hyperactive on Twitter coming up with excuses and blaming everyone else is as busy making his government agency work better for the Filipino people because there is a lot of work that still needs to be done, even just at the passport level which is supposed to be the easiest part of the DFA’s job.*  

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