Migrante International called on newly-appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to stop the proposal for a 100% increase in passport fees with 10-year validity.
According to an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), passports will soon cost P1,900 to P2,000, twice the current price of P950 for passports with 5-year validity.
“Better government services should never be placed on the public’s shoulders, in particular our OFWs’. The extension of passport validity is a welcome relief for OFWs because it will unburden them of the tedious and tiresome passport renewal process, but it should not be used to justify new state exactions. We urge Sec. Cayetano to immediately halt the proposed increase in passport fees and instead focus on improving the services of the DFA with no added costs to the public,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante spokesperson.
News on the proposed increase came out when the upper house approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 1356, which amends the Passport Act of 1996 and extends the validity of Philippine passports from 5 to 10 years.
DFA Sec. Cayetano was one of the authors of said bill. SB 1356 was deliberated under his wing when he was Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
“During the senate deliberations, we conveyed to Sec. Cayetano that OFWs must be assured that the extension of the validity of passports will not result in an increase in passport fees. It is illogical to impose fee hikes since it will not, in any way, bring additional expense to the government. In fact, through this measure, the government can save funds which it can divert to other direct services for OFWs,” said Hernando.
The House of Representatives has already ratified the bicameral report on the proposal to extend the validity of passports. The ratified bill will now be forwarded to Malacañang for President Duterte’s signature.
Hernando also urged Sec. Cayetano to conduct a probe on anomalous exorbitant and varying passport fee rates imposed by Philippine embassies and consulates. He asserted that passport fees in PH posts abroad should not be different from the rates in the Philippines.
“Otherwise, we have reason to believe that passport fees are being utilized for profit and income-generation of embassies and consulates, at the expense of OFWs,” Hernando said.
Based on reports from Migrante chapters abroad, current rates are higher by 200%-300% (for passport renewal) and 350%-650% (for replacement of lost passports) than the costs in the Philippines.
Hernando said that their group is seeking a dialogue with Sec. Cayetano to discuss urgent and pressing concerns and issues of overseas Filipinos in time for the National Migrants Day next month. ###