By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Grace Poe on Sunday pushed for a freeze on passports application and renewal fees to avoid burdening Filipino travellers with unnecessary expenses.
Poe earlier batted for the inclusion of an “anti-passport price increase” in the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in order to freeze the fee for the travel document even if its validity has been extended to 10 years pursuant to a new law.
Currently, the DFA charges P950 for regular processing or passports delivery to applicants within 15 working days and P1,200 for express processing, where delivery will be after seven working days.
“If the number of pages will remain, then there is no reason to jack up the price,” Poe stressed.
She noted that for most Filipino travellers, the 44-page current passport, 39 pages of which are stampable, would suffice.
“Hindi naman lahat ng Pinoy jet- setter (Not all Filipinos are jetsetters),” she said.
She said she will introduce an amendment to the proposed P19.56-billion DFA budget for 2018 when the Senate tackles the agency’s budget.
“We just want to make sure that passports with 10-year validity won’t translate to a double price of application fee,” Poe said.
President Duterte signed into law last August 2, 2017 Republic Act 10928 which extends the period of validity of a Philippine passport from five to 10 years, except for those of minors which would only have a five-year validity.
The senator said if the DFA will issue a passport that will have more pages, then the best recourse is to maintain the current price, “or call for extensive hearings, especially among OFWs, if they plan to charge more.”
About three million Filipinos apply for new or renewal of passports annually.
“Hindi na kailangang tumubo pa ang ating pamahalaan sa pag-issue ng isang dokumento na kailangan ng ating mga OFW sa kanilang hanapbuhay (Our government need not earn additional profit in issuing documents that are needed by our OFWs for their livelihood),” she said.