By Elena Aben
President Rodrigo Duterte has been asked to certify as priority measure any of the bills extending the validity period of the Philippine passport from five to 10 years.
In a statement, Senate minority leader Ralph Recto said the measure is “one low-hanging fruit” Congress can pick, one that will benefit millions of Filipino travelers and migrant workers.
He reminded the president of a statement he made in his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July that the Philippine passport should have longer expiry.
In his speech, Duterte recalled how hurt he was seeing passport applicants queue overnight and sleep on the pavement outside a mall in Davao City where the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) maintained a satellite office.
Extending the validity of the passport would, however, requires revising Republic Act 8239 or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996.
Days before Duterte delivered his SONA, Recto filed Senate Bill 795, which seeks to amend Section 10 of RA 8239 to make extending the passport validity possible.
In his bill’s explanatory note, Recto specifically cited the inconveniences experienced by OFWs in securing a passport.
“Most OFWs are allowed to return to the Philippines from two weeks to a month for a vacation but the application, processing of passports can take up that entire period,” he said. “This might be too short a time for OFWs to secure new passports. Many spend their entire vacation in queues for multiple government-issued permits needed for their employment.”
The proposed measure, however, will keep up to five years the passport validity for minors in accordance with international norms.
Recto’s bill also empowers the foreign affairs secretary to truncate the validity period to less than 10 years if he deems that national security, public safety or public health or whenever the applicant’s supporting documents appear inadequate.
For this year, the DFA is expected to collect P4.6 billion from passport processing. The agency receives about 15,000 applications a day.
Recto said DFA representatives have expressed approval to the measure during budget hearings in the Senate.