A total of 1,200 fixed passport appointments have been opened to the public daily by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) following their removal from travel agencies last month.
Ricarte Abejuela III, acting director of the Passport Division of the Office of Consular Affairs, said in a statement on Monday that the new policy means the clients of travel agencies will now have to go through the same process as others when applying for or renewing their passports.
"We want to give back the appointment slots to the Filipino public," Abejuela said.
Under the new policy, use of the courtesy lane by DFA employees was also restricted to the employee and their parents, spouse, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law.
The move was made to increase the number of slots for the express lane and expand its use to OFWs who are working abroad for the first time.
"We all need to make changes for everybody's sake. We really want to give back the courtesy lane to those who are entitled to it. These are the senior citizens, persons with disabilities, pregnant, solo parents, children 7 years old and below, and Overseas Filipino Workers," Abujuela said.
"Our policy now is that no OFW should miss out on a job opportunity just because he/she couldn't get a passport in time," he added.
The DFA also increased the quotas of consular offices and cleared bogus appointments in their system, opening an additional 94,350 slots from July to August and 86,889 in September.
The agency allegedly brought down its backlog of 33,000 applications pending investigation under the Automated Fingerprint Identification System. —Rie Takumi/KBK/KVD, GMA News