DFA requests additional funds to issue, upgrade more passports
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is seeking additional funds in its proposed 2020 budget to issue more passports and upgrade current ones to have enhanced security features.
Approved funds for the department's passport services fell short of the P5.61 billion requested by the DFA in its proposal. Instead, the Department of Budget and Management approved only P647 million or some P4.97 billion less than what was requested.
Senator Franklin Drilon asked DFA officials why the department needs the huge amount of money, considering it was a "very substantial amount...asking to be added to the budget."
DFA Acting Assistant Secretary Myla Macahilig explained that the DFA projected the issuance and upgrade of passports to cost some P9 billion in 2020. Currently, some P4 billion has been approved for the issuance and upgrade of passports under the DFA's Tier 1 items, which include continuing programs and services.
The DFA's passport services, Macahilig said, would thus require some P5 billion more in 2020. Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Neil Ferrer also explained that the DFA expects a higher number of passports to be produced in 2020.
The DFA's passport services is also among the agency's projects which require the most funds.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr, meanwhile, sought to request from Congress the authority to allow the DFA to keep revenues made from the issuance of passports, saying if the DFA were allowed to retain and use it, it would not need funds requested for passport services.
According to Locsin, the DFA in 2018 "started issuing passports faster than ever" as applicants can expect to get theirs in "6 to 7 working days," from over a week.
Senators took note of the request as they moved on to other budget items.
The DFA's passport services earlier drew flak after Locsin made statements that a previous contractor supposedly "took all" passport data, prompting calls for an investigation. The top diplomat eventually said there was no runaway of passport data after all. – Rappler.com