The Department of Foreign Affairs on Saturday assured the public that most of the people renewing their passports will not be affected by the recent incident involving the government's formerly outsourced passport maker running off with all its applicants' data.
This, according to DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato, was because most of the current passport holders already have electronic or e-passports issued from 2009 onward and therefore no longer needs to submit birth certificates issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Cato told GMA News that the submission of PSA-issued birth certificates is being required only for those renewing the older Machine Readable Ready (MRRP) and Machine Readable Passports (MRP) issued before e-passports were first rolled out in 2009.
Cato said the only passports currently in circulation are e-passports and that those who are renewing are e-passport holders already. The older MRRP and MRPs have already expired by now said Cato.
The clarification came following Foreign Affairs Secretary Toedoro Locsin Jr's revelation that the DFA's outsourced passport maker "took all" applicants' data, forcing the agency to require those who are renewing their passports to bring their birth certificates.
In response to some queries on Twitter, Locsin said the DFA is "rebuilding our files from scratch because previous outsourced passport maker took all the data when contract (was) terminated."
Who are affected?
He said the only people who probably still have their expired MRPs or MRRPs are those who probably had used their passports once or a few times but never traveled since their passports expired.
Cato clarified that most overseas Filipino workers already have e-passports.
OFWs who would be affected by the incident would only be those who had already returned to the country for good but may now be thinking about working overseas again and applying for a renewal of their passports.
Also affected are those who left as tourists, students, and businessmen, who have not traveled since 2014, the year that passports issued in 2009 expired. These individuals, Cato said, are required to submit their birth certificates for passport renewal.
“We require the submission of birth certificates so we can capture and store the digital copy of the document so that renewals would be easier," Cato said.
He explained that in the past, the DFA required the submission of physical copies of borth certificate. “ But we dispose of those files after a certain period,” he added.
Data privacy lawyer Cecilia Soria has already warned against the possibility of identity theft after the incident involving the DFA's former contractortaking "all the data" from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The problem will exponentially worsen if the former contractor also has a copy of people's birth certificates, as this contains sensitive information like the name of an individual's parents, she added.
The DFA said it has no comment about the data privacy issue. — MDM, GMA News