At the start of this year, Filipino international travellers may have taken notice when the Philippines was announced to have the 72nd most powerful passport in the world. This was thanks to its current record of allowing its travellers to enter no less than 63 countries without need of a visa, an increase from the 61 visa-free nations of 2017 (when the Philippines ranked 75th). Some two months later, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) seems set to impress us once more, with the timetable estimate of 2019 for them to enable passport-holders to be able to renew passports online.
According to CNN Philippines, DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has announced that the agency is now in the process of implementing online passport renewals by next year. During the House investigation on passport processing this Tuesday, March 6, he even described part of the online renewal steps. “You will just need to take a photo of your passport and a selfie, then we will compare it,” he said. “Afterwards, we can already mail you the passport.” This comes as a great comfort to international travellers and OFW, long-suffering victims of the DFA’s chronic problems regarding slow passport processing and issuance.
On the other hand, even this new proposed system has already hit a few snags. According to Cayetano, the ability to have their passports renewed online is an option available only to those who applied starting from August 2016 and afterwards. Said time was the changeover between the current Philippine passport contractor and its predecessor; the previous one had its passport-holder data corrupted and rendered obsolete. To that end, holders of passports issued from before August 2016 will have to renew them the old-fashioned way, as the DFA will need to take their biometrics for record purposes all over again.
“Once we have the biometrics, you don’t need to show up to DFA offices and we can do renewals online,” Cayetano assures pre-2016 passport-holding Filipinos.
Cayetano also gave a defense to one of the most-disliked portions of a Philippine passport application or renewal, the appointment system wherein applicants need to have their appearance at the nearest DFA office be forced into a schedule with limited daily slots. “”The passport appointment system is like capitalism. It’s not perfect, it’s problematic, but there’s no better solution as yet except to improve it,” the Foreign Affairs secretary said Tuesday. To that end, the appointment system aids in regulating long lines for processing, as the agency reportedly tackles anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 people coming in nationwide, every day.
Photo courtesy from DFA