DFA admits passport backlog
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has admitted to being swamped with complaints over the mounting backlog and delays in passport processing, and is advising applicants to avail of the offer of free extension of passport validity while it fixes the system.
“According to some of the complaints, it took two to three months for them to receive the new passports. That is already alarming because it is way beyond the normal processing period,” Assistant Secretary Frank Cimafranca of the DFA’s Office of Consular Affairs told a news briefing on Thursday.
He said the DFA has instituted measures to fix the backlog which as of Thursday had reached 42,230 passports.
According to the DFA’s records, 11,852 of these come from foreign posts, 30,127 from regional offices and 251 from Manila.
Cimafranca blamed power cuts and the breakdown of the machines at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas where the printing and assembly of passport booklets are being done.
The entire passport production will be transferred between August 21 and 24 to the Lima Technology Center where the high-security printing plant of the APO Production Unit, the printer, is located. APO is a state corporation under the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“These machines are beyond repair. This is a six-year-old system we had since 2009,” he said.
He promised that the Office of the Consular Affairs would be able to address the backlogs by September.
One of the measures that the DFA has instituted to give it more time to process passport renewals is the offer to extend the validity of passports for a period of not less than a year but not more than two years, free of charge and without conditions.
Normally, a passport holder has to have a valid reason and proof of urgency before he can be granted an extension of his passport’s validity.
Applicants availing of the free passport extension must claim their renewed passports within six months of the original date of release. The new e-passport system is expected to roll out next January, Cimafranca said.
APO’s full operations which will include fully automated personalization machines that are less labor-intensive will be expected only by mid-2016.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.