DFA: Call center tutugon sa mga passport applicants

PASSPORT applicants can now choose the date and time they would like to be accommodated by the Department of Foreign Affairs consular office nationwide.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the DFA Office of Consular Affairs  has until the end of the December 2012 to put in place a dedicated call center that would allow passport applicants to choose the date and time they would like to be accommodated in any DFA consular office nationwide.

“This appointment system and other measures that the DFA has been taking during the past several months will significantly reduce if not eliminate the long lines that have been associated with the passport application process,” Secretary del Rosario said.

The proposed appointment system, according to Secretary del Rosario, will complement the ongoing transfer of DFA consular offices to shopping malls nationwide under Public-Private Partnership arrangements that will save the government an estimated P1.04 billion in operating and other costs in the next 10 years.

“These arrangements with our mall partners will not only involve a total makeover of our consular facilities but will also allow us to offer improved services in settings that offer comfort and convenience to the applying public,” the Secretary said.

Under the new guidelines that he approved, Secretary del Rosario said that before the end of the year the DFA should have been able to open the first 13 consular offices in Metro Manila and other key cities and at the same time conclude negotiations for similar arrangements for the hosting of consular offices in other parts of the country.

The new guidelines also require all DFA mall-based offices to operate beyond regular office hours from Mondays to Saturdays to allow them to accommodate applicants who could not afford to be absent from work or school. These offices will also be open for three hours on Sundays to allow applicants to claim their passports.

In addition, Secretary del Rosario also ordered the decentralization of authentication services and to make this service available in Metro Manila and San Fernando, Pampanga; Cebu and Davao.

The guidelines also cover the conduct of special and mobile passport services and the accreditation of travel agencies that would allow them to continue assisting applicants until 31 December 2012.

With the new measures, Secretary del Rosario said passport applicants, especially those in the provinces, no longer need to go to DFA offices as early as midnight just to make sure that their applications would be accepted and processed.
“All the steps we have been taking during the past several months are in line with our commitment to bring government closer to the people,” the Secretary said, adding that despite the improvement in consular services, the DFA has no plans of increasing its passport fees, which are currently pegged at P950 for regular processing and P1,200 for expedited processing.

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