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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

DFA asked to restore appointment slots for travel agencies

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A group of accredited travel agencies appealed to the Department of Foreign Affairs to reimpose their previously 1,000 allotted slots for passport renewal and application processing.

Philippine Travel Agencies Association president Marlene Dado Jante said the yearly P500 accreditation fee to process passport imposed by the DFA would be useless if they do not have the 1,000 allotted slots.

In a press conference, Jante said that the PTAA fully supports the DFA’s drive in weeding out unscrupulous individuals selling bogus appointments for passport processing but at the same time, they want their members operations to continue and expand.

“We want the travel agencies appointment slots restored,” Jante said, requesting DFA chief Alan Peter Cayetano to hold consultation with them.

Jante noted that apart from the P500 fee or P128,000 that the DFA receive every year for the accreditation, travel agencies are also required to submit a surety bond of  P200,000.

On July 31, 2017, the DFA “temporarily” removed the online appointment slots of travel agencies due to streamlining the passport process and “cleansing” unscrupulous and bogus fixers.

However, despite the temporary removal, the DFA advised the travel agencies to still submit their application for yearly.

“Ang pangako nila three months lang, maire-restore ulit. Sinabi sa amin i-sususpende muna pansamantala,” Jante said.

“(Pero) nagtaka kami bakit hindi na sila nagpatawag sa amin ng meeting. Naaka unfair para sa travel association,” she said.

Jante said that Cayetano has been quiet about their plea and never held a consultation with them, a usual when a new DFA secretary takes over.

She said that it was DFA undersecretary Jose Montales who was coordinating with them on passport processing.

Montales is a political appointee of Cayetano and a former administrator official of the latter’s wife Laarni, at the Taguig City Hall.

“Napakatahimik ni Secretary. Eto lang yung secretary na never humarap sa private sectors,” she added.

Jante said the July 31 decision came at a time when travel last year was about to enter its peak season.

“This resulted in loss of business from travel agencies,” she said.

Jante said accredited travel agencies have so far lost an estimated P10.240-million in revenues since the DFA removed the allotted slots.

She added that 15 percent of the revenue stream of some of the PTAA members comes from their passport processing services.

National Association of Independent Travel Agencies-Phils, Inc president Linda Tan said her agency was one of the 256 accredited travel agencies who lost an estimated P40,000.

She said they are receiving a minimum of 10 passport applicants a day.

“Since we no longer have slots, we have been refusing new clients everyday, and that’s more than 10,” she said.

She added that having 1,000 slots will not affect the online appointment at the DFA website for Filipinos who opted to set schedule manually since they are given an access to the portal.

Tan said that in her agency, they only charge a service fee of P500 for regular passport application; and P800 for express application.

“If they restore our allotted slots, there will be no reason for us to make appointment on their website and the online appointment will be allotted to the public,” she said.

Section 6 of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 states that “In case of renewal the application may be filed by any licensed travel agency duly accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs: Provided, that the agent shall be responsible for the authenticity of bona fide of the supporting documents being presented to meet the requirements for the application of passports”.

“From there, it is already clear that under the law, travel agencies are allowed to assist their clients in processing their passport applications,” she said.

“This partnership was worked on painstakingly by or association…we believe the PTAA has been very good partner of the DFA in providing our countrymen with passports,” she said.

In 2012, the DFA processed 10,000 daily passport application with 7,500 of them through Teleserv, 1000 through travel agencies, and 1,500 direct applications or only 10-percent allocation for travel agencies.

“If we are still given the same 1,000 slots daily, that would only be seven percent of the total passports being processed by the DFA, which is now at 14,000,” she added.

Jante expressed confidence that the wash down rate for travel agencies will still be much smaller as compared to the DFA.

“The DFA is correct in stating that with the increase in applications, it is going to face some serious backlog,” she said.

“The solution is to apportion the responsibility and not to block accredited travel agencies from assisting the government,” Jantes added.


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