The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday announced that it will deploy four “Passporting-On-Wheels” (POW) trucks to help decongest the passport application backlogs in its various consular offices in Metro Manila.
In a press briefing, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said each truck will have the capacity to process over 500 applicants daily and will be deployed in strategic areas around the National Capital Region.
Cayetano’s announcement came following complaints, especially among netizens, on the huge backlog in the DFA’s online passport application system. Several angry netizens slammed the foreign affairs office for the three-month waiting period just to avail of a free slot online.
As part of their effort to facilitate the system, the DFA secretary said the deployment of the four POW trucks would create a total of 2,000 additional daily slots for passport applicants.
He explained that the POW truck is actually intended to bring the DFA’s passport processing services closer to the public especially those who do not have access to a consular office.
Mobile passport services
Aside from the trucks, Cayetano assured that the DFA will also continue its deployment of mobile passport services in key locations nationwide as it has done last year where they visited a total of 45 local government units, accounting for more than 50,000 issued passports.
Expenses for the deployment of POW trucks and other reforms that the DFA is implementing to hasten the processing and delivery of passports will be shouldered by the APO Production Unit, the office tasked to print and produce the Philippine passport.
In the same event, the DFA secretary also dismissed reports on the alleged existence of a “syndicate” inside the passport processing office who allegedly work in collusion with some travel agencies.
“We are not the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) nor are we the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group). But we are also not stupid. Alam naman namin kung there’s fertile ground for ‘sindikato’ (We known if there’s fertile ground for a syndicate),” the foreign affairs chief said.
He said that when the new administration assumed office, there were originally hundreds of passport application slots allotted to travel agencies, lawmakers, and DFA employees.
However, Cayetano said all those allotments were removed in order to eliminate the possibility of a syndicate to thrive.
He said the increased demand in the production of passports can be attributed to many factors, including the rise of affordable and budget airlines resulting in many Filipinos traveling abroad.
The opening of international airports outside Metro Manila, he said, also resulted in the increase of the number of flights going to and from the country.
During the Duterte administration, Cayetano said more flights were added in Clark, Cebu, and Davao airports.
Add to this, he said, the recovery of the world economy that led to an increase in the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)