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DFA allays fears over data 'theft'

The Department of Foreign Affairs has assured the public that most of the people renewing their passports will not be affected by the recent incident involving the government’s formerly outsourced passport maker running off with all its applicants’ data.

DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said most of the current passport holders already had electronic or e-passports issued from 2009 onward and therefore no longer need to submit birth certificates issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

In a tweet Friday, Cato said: “Applicants renewing brown or green passports or maroon machine-readable passports are required to submit birth certificates because we need to capture and store the document in our database.”

According to Cato, the agency no longer possessed the physical copy of the documents submitted by applicants when they first applied.

He said the DFA stopped issuing the maroon machine-readable passports in 2010 or 2011, which was replaced by the upgraded and more secure e-Passport.

The reminder came following the perception that the submission of birth certificates for passport renewal was a new requirement.

“We have clarified that only those holding expired machine readable ready and machine-readable passports issued before we initially launched the electronic passport in 2009 would have to meet this requirement,” Cato said in a separate statement Saturday.

“All the valid passports in circulation now are e-Passports,” he added.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. disclosed that the previously outsourced passport maker did not transfer the previously acquired data back to the government when their contract was terminated.

“Because (the) previous contractor got pissed when terminated, it made off with data. We did nothing about it or couldn’t because we were in the wrong. It won’t happen again,” Locsin said.

“Passports pose national security issues and cannot be kept back by private entities. Data belongs to the state,” he added. 

In a Twitter exchange with Locsin, Cato said: “Applicants renewing brown or green passports or maroon machine-readable passports are required to submit birth certificates...”

“... because we need to capture and store the document in our database as we no longer have the physical copy of the document submitted when they first applied,” Cato said.

Locsin has earlier aired concerns on why applicants renewing their passports repeatedly need to submit their birth certificates.

“Isn’t the expired passport sufficient ID? How many times do you have to prove you are what the State declared you are in the expired passports?” the DFA chief said. 

READ: Online identity theft cases rise

Topics: Department of Foreign Affairs , Elmer Cato , Philippine Statistics Authority , e-Passport , data theft , Teodoro Locsin Jr.
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