The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is requesting for some P53 million to open temporary offsite passport services (TOPS) that will aid in addressing a backlog in passport renewals.
DFA Undersecretary Brigido Dulay told lawmakers at the House of Representatives that the amount comes on top of the proposed P21 billion the agency is seeking for the 2022 budget, which was some P2 billion less than its 2021 budget of P22.6 billion.
Dulay said the P53 million will be able to fund at least 10 more temporary offsite passport services, in addition to six other TOPS that were opened in July. He added the DFA had an estimated backlog of about 3 to 4 million passport renewals that needed to be addressed, after quarantine restrictions hampered consular operations and an “influx” in passport applications were reported.
“The problem is these (six TOPS) are really not enough to fill the backlog. What we need is to add additional temporary offsite activities so that we can double the capacity that had been hampered by the pandemic,” he said.
Other offsite passport services opened in July had a capacity of 500 slots daily, and had been made operational from Monday to Saturday. The additional sites allowed the DFA to open over 177,000 more passport appointment slots until the end of September.
The DFA said the P53 million does not include rent, which it currently does not need to pay in its temporary sites located in malls. Dulay said the agency wants to keep this arrangement for the additional 10 sites it will put up.
Each site, the DFA added, will need an estimated P5 million for one year of operations.
Lawmakers had expressed support for the DFA’s request, citing passport services were essential to allow Filipinos to leave for work abroad. Marino Representative Macnell Lusotan had said this was especially urgent for seafarers, many of whom were unable to secure a slot to renew their passports for jobs abroad.
Aside from funding for the 10 TOPS, the DFA also requested lawmakers to consider adding an additional P18.1 billion for items that were not included in its proposed budget such as budgets for posts opened in 2019, funds for three posts planned to be opened in 2020, and the operations of several consular offices in the country, among others. – Rappler.com