Solon: Congress must lead push to revoke DFA policyBy Doris C. Bongcac
Cebu Daily News
Congressional intervention is needed to revoke the new passport processing guidelines of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), a partylist lawmaker said last week.
During last Tuesday’s 888 News Forum, Anad partylist Rep. Pastor Alcover Sr. said he would deliver a privilege speech to open discussion on the DFA’s new policy that would be implemented in December.
“Congress should be involved. We have to know what is the rationale for this because this is a national issue,” Alcover said.
The new policy affects travel agencies in the country.
Alcover asked Jenny Franco of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NITAS) to give him a copy of the group’s position paper.
The new policy reduces the number of passports from travel agencies which DFA is allowed to process from 20 percent to only one percent per day. Cebu alone has 62 travel agencies.
“We have clients who would rather get the services of a travel agency instead of lining up at the DFA to get their priority number,” Franco said.
She said she’s unconvinced the policy will provide equal opportunity to all passport applicants.
Franco said travel agencies facilitate compliance with DFA requirements and make appointments on behalf of their clients for when their photos and fingerprints will be taken.
They also send passports through chosen couriers to their clients in the provinces.
Franco said elected officials could just call up the DFA and set their own appointments, something which ordinary Filipinos can’t avail of.
“We are a democratic country. Everyone should be given a choice whether to go to DFA on their own or get the service of a travel agency,” she said.
Another forum guest, former Cebu City congressman Antonio Cuenco said the new DFA passport policy “isn’t proper.”
“I don’t think that you should be prohibited from representing your clients provided that you do not charge exorbitant fees,” he said. Alcover said he taps the services of travel agencies for his passport needs.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he invited Franco and other travel operators to visit his office so they can also discuss how the city government could intervene in the matter.
DFA Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis said the removal of the accreditation requirements for travel agencies offering passport services to the public was not meant to drive agencies out of business.
Seguis said the new DFA guidelines are actually removing the entire accreditation process as part of reforms to improve the delivery of consular services.”
This levels the playing field for all Filipinos applying for passports in the DFA.
Also included is the transfer of passport offices to shopping malls nationwide and extending work hours from 10 a.m to 8 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. With a story from GMA Network