DFA improves passport processing output amid pandemic

Published October 2, 2021, 2:01 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has managed to slightly improve its output in terms of processing passport applications amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

(Ellson Quismorio/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The agency reported on Saturday, Oct. 2 that it has already matched its entire 2020 passport processing output of 1.7 million, with still a full quarter or three months to go this year.

However, figures provided by DFA Undersecretary Brigido Dulay showed that there’s still a long way to go before the agency get backs to churning out passports like it did before the pandemic struck.

“Noong pre-COVID ay mayroon kaming na-serbisyuhan na apat na milyon mahigit na mga Pilipino nabigyan ng passport (Before COVID, we were able to service over four million Filipinos who applied for passports),” Dulay said during the “Laging Handa” press briefing.

“Ito ay bumaba sa 1.7 million noong 2020 noong nag-umpisa ang pandemya. At ngayon, 2021…Oktubre na pala, 1.7 million na kami ngayon (This went down to 1.7 million when the pandemic started. And now, in 2021, this October we’ve already processed 1.7 million),” he said.

Dulay explained how the current health crisis has impacted DFA’s passport processing service.

“Bakit tayo nagkaroon ng backlog? Isa lang naman ang talagang sanhi nito–yung pandemya. Sapagkat dahil sa pandemya ay hindi tayo makapagpapasok at mapag-proseso ng mas maraming tao sa aming mga gusali. Sapagkat tayo at dapat tumugon at sumunod doon sa IATF protocols ukol sa physical distancing at venue capacity (Why did we get a backlog? There’s only one reason for this–the pandemic. Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to let a lot of people inside our buildings for processing. We need to follow the IATF protocols on physical distancing and venue capacity).”

He referred to the periodic guidelines being issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases in connection with changes in quarantine classification.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic in March 2020. The Philippines was under hard lockdown for most of the year.

To get around this problem, Dulay said the DFA decided to establish temporary offsite passporting services sites to facilitate the processing of individuals who successfully booked appointments via the agency’s website.

He likened these sites to “pop-up consular offices”.

“Kumbaga nagbuo pa kami ng panibagong opisina, mga outlet para makapagserbisyo pa kami ng mas nakararami sa ating mga kababayan na nangangailangan ng passport (In other words, we created new offices and outlets to allow us to serve more of our coutnyrmen who need passports),” he said.

Dulay said “four to five” more of these pop-up facilities will be opened this October.

Meanwhile, Dulay gave some advice for people who have found it difficult to log in to the DFA website for passport appointments.