DFA aims online passport renewal by 2019

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Story updated to include statement Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 6) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the agency is preparing for an online passport renewal by 2019.

"'Yung cellphone niyo, kukunan lang ng picture yung passport, and then magse-selfie ka, ico-compare lang sa 'yo yung passport, then we can mail you the passport already," Cayetano said on Tuesday during the House investigation on passport processing.

(Translation: You will just need to take a photo of your passport and a selfie, then we will compare it. Afterwards, we can already mail you the passport.)

The service, however, is limited to those who applied beginning August 2016 as the previous passport contractor turned over corrupted and obsolete data, Cayetano said.

He added the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has to take biometrics again.

"Once we have the biometrics, pwede nang hindi magpakita sa offices and we can do the renewals online," Cayetano said.

(Translation: Once we have the biometrics, you don't need to show up to DFA offices and we can do renewals online.)

The DFA has been criticized for slow passport processing, from scheduling of appointments up to releasing of passports.

READ: DFA denies syndicate, opens more passport appointment slots

Normal passport processing by June

Cayetano also said two new regional consular offices will open in March, while six passport on wheels with five machines each will arrive by June to help normalize the processing of passports and address 60 to 80 percent of the backlog.

He said six more regional consular offices will open nationwide between March and June.

“Mas maraming nag-apply kaysa sa kaya namin i-process araw-araw. Ang Kongreso, last year pa naglagay ng pondo for this year to open 8 new offices, meron kami ngayon 4. Magiging 10 na van na may limang makina na kayang 500 per van na applications a day. 'Pag nagawa 'yan, halos dodoble ang aming capacity, mababawasan na ang waiting time sa appointment,” Cayetano said.

[Translation: There are more applicants than we can process everyday. The Congress released funds to open 8 new offices las year, we now have 4. We will eventually have 10 that each have 5 machines that can process 500 applications a day. If it happens, our capacity will double and the waiting time for appointments will decrease.]

To accommodate the expected increase in the demand of passport renewals and issuance in April and May, the consular office along ASEANA will be open until Saturday.

The Foreign Affairs Secretary said the DFA is also looking at increasing the operating hours of other consular offices.

Passport appointment like 'capitalism'

Cayetano said the appointment system helps regulate long lines.

"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. Because kung hindi tayo mag-a-appointment system, baka 50,000-100,000 ang magpipila every day (If we would not implement the appointment system, 50,000 to 100,000 people may line up every day)," he said.