Starting June 1, those who will not show up on the date of their passport appointment will be barred from re-applying for 30 days, Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said on Thursday.
“If you don’t show up you’re not going be able to reserve for 30 days. So please take your reservations seriously,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Chief told ANC Channel’s Headstart program.
Almendras lamented that the practice of disregarding the schedule given to applicants by the DFA's consular division has resulted in a two-month waiting period for hundreds of applicants.
“People complain it takes two months to take a slot to be interviewed. Statistics showed that 47 percent of people who applied for appointment do not show up,” Almendras said.
“They just apply now, they don’t show up again so starting June 1, if you do not show up for your appointment you’re gonna be put aside for at least a month. You are not going to apply for a new slot,” he said.
As there is no fee for passport application reservation, Almendras observed that many Filipinos take their slots for granted because they could easily apply for a new one.
Almendras admitted that he contemplated on imposing a fine for no-show passport applicants but was advised against it by the Commission on Audit because no service has been rendered yet.
The DFA receives at least 15,000 passport applications daily.
Long processing time
Meanwhile, apart from problems on passport reservation, Almendras acknowledged that the DFA was experiencing challenges in cutting down the processing time, which normally takes two and a half hours to complete.
Almendras appealed to the Filipinos for patience as the DFA is transitioning to a new system to accommodate the huge volume of passport applications.
“When you put in a new system there are always challenges but we acknowledge the fact that it has been bumpy,” he said.
Another cause of delay is the stringent security check that applicants have to go through due to thousands of cases of identity fraud encountered by the DFA.
“We have a lot more screening happening. We have to double check. We receive 15,000 applications per day and about 4,000 applications are bumped off. We have to investigate, we have to protect the integrity of the passport,” he said.
“The intention is to make the Philippine passport a really respectable identification and that means security check left and right.”
Amid all these concerns, Almendras vowed to reduce the processing time for application.
“The fastest we have done is 20 minutes and the longest is one hour and 42 minutes and I’m still targeting a one-hour turnaround time. From the time you enter our office it should be one hour’s time,” he said. — VVP, GMA News