Have you ever wondered why it takes so frigging long to update your passport?
If you tried to renew or apply for a passport this year, chances are, you may have been frustrated by the ridiculously long wait for such. These days, if your passport has less than six months left till expiry, you would need to schedule your passport renewal up to three months ahead (some of my friends had to schedule theirs about half a year in advance. Oh, the horror!). “But what if I have a trip coming up next month???,” you might protest. Well, too bad, sweetheart.
Apparently, the blame comes down to a local syndicate who hatched a scam involving the reservation of up to 450 slots for passport renewal applicants. By blocking a big number of slots, these fixers could and would charge an upwards of Php5,000 each per slot, depending on the applicants’ preferred date of application and renewal.
Those in desperate need of up-to-date travel documents would, of course, shell out more. The syndicates who are said to backing these fixers thus earn as much as Php2.5 million via this scheme.
A government-owned printing facility called APO Production Unit, Inc. apparently foiled this scam, so the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has given them the mandate to handle the end-to-end passport processing within the next two months, starting in late July.
So far, this move seems to be effective, with more appointment slots opening up for Philippine passport applications and renewals about a month after APO Production Unit, Inc. took over.
According to the Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) Assistant Secretary Frank Cimafranca, 94,350 additional slots have already opened up in the period between July to August of this year. Thousands more were reportedly freed up last 25 August for September applicants.
Some 900 appointments were also moved up to earlier dates, and the backlog of 33,000 suspended applicants was brought down to zero between 2 August and 18 August. Passport applications at the DFA’s Main Hub in Aseana, Pasay, meanwhile, have increased from 1,900 to 3,300 per day.
Cimafranca also issued a statement proclaiming that the number of personnel in charge of processing travel documents have also been increased to cope with the volume of applicants.
The OCA Assistant Secretary thus urged applicants like senior citizens, persons with disabilities, solo parents, pregnant women, and children aged seven years and below to just walk in and use the courtesy lane at consular offices. All those who fall under any of the aforementioned categories are exempted from having to set prior appointments for their passport application or renewal. This will prevent the unnecessary use of appointment slots, thus freeing up more for citizens who are required to actually book them.