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Courtesy Lane perk extends to OFWs

/ 12:05 AM September 29, 2014

This is in reference to the article titled “OFWs rue loss of special lane” (News, 9/21/14).

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of Consular Affairs (DFA-OCA) met with Alfredo P. Palmiery, president of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters Inc. on July 18, 2014, and explained to him that overseas Filipino workers with confirmed job offers or existing valid contracts can avail of Courtesy Lane privileges in Metro Manila and in the Regional Consular Offices (RCOs). This means OFWs, unlike the regular passport applicants, do not need to set an appointment before their passport applications may be processed. This is a manifestation of the DFA’s continuing commitment to provide our OFWs good public service.

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Courtesy Lane privileges are also extended to senior citizens, pregnant women, persons with disabilities, and children under seven years of age. Since Courtesy Lane privileges are already extended to OFWs with confirmed job offers or existing valid contracts, there is no need to create a separate lane dedicated to OFWs only . The fee for regular passport processing for all passport applicants, including OFWs, remains at P950, while express processing for all passport applications, OFWs or not, remains at P1,200.

The DFA decided to remove the special lanes for OFWs and travel agencies because they did not benefit the OFWs and those availing the travel agencies’ services. The lanes benefited only the recruitment and travel agencies, which charged extra fees for the processing of their clients’ papers despite the fact that they were made to undergo the same documentary and personal appearance requirements as other passport applicants. The special lanes for OFWs and travel agencies were a venue for fixing and corruption. These were removed to promote fairness and the “tuwid na daan” in the processing of passports.

The recent delays in passport releases were caused by the breakdown of overworked passport printing machines and software. The DFA has resolved this problem with the timely purchase of spare parts, which have been installed two weeks ago. Printing at the DFA’s passport printing office in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas now operates seven days a week, with day and night shifts to deal with all the backlogs. The DFA is purchasing more advanced printers to augment the current number of printers.

We expect the normalization of passport releases within a couple of weeks. In Metro Manila, regular passport processing takes 15 days and express processing takes

seven days; in RCOs, passport processing takes 30 working days.

Rest assured that the department is doing everything it can to ensure that passport processing and releasing are as efficient and customer friendly as possible,

especially for OFWs.

—RAFAEL E. SEGUIS,

undersecretary,

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Department of Foreign Affairs

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