The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, will begin hearing proposals to extend the validity of Philippine passports from five years to 10 years on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Senators Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Minority Floor Leader Ralph Recto had filed several measures in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s bid to amend a 20-year-old law extending the validity of Philippine passports to 10 years.
Republic Act No. 8239, otherwise known as the Philippine Passport Act of 1996, was enacted pursuant to the people’s constitutional right to travel. The validity of a regular Philippine passport is five years.
“This amendment is a measure that will enable us to comply with President Duterte’s directive to avoid long queues for government services,” Villar said in filing Senate Bill No. (SBN) 324.
“Increasing the passports’ validity will, in effect, lessen the frequency and volume of applications for renewal and will contribute in reducing, if not eliminating, the long queues at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) offices,” she added.
Villar’s measure also authorizes the DFA to decrease the period of validity of a passport whenever national economic interest or political stability of the country warrants it.
Gordon’s bill, SBN 109, maintains the validity of the passports of minors or those below 18 years old to five years due to changes in their physical appearance which he said shall be reflected in the identification page of their passports.
Angara’s proposal, SBN 943, meanwhile, provides special procedures to facilitate the passport applications of illiterate, physically disabled, and senior citizens. It also seeks to amend the provision on the Passport Revolving Fund to allow it to be utilized by the DFA for the improvement of its passport issuance and other services.
For her part, Legarda’s measure seeks to address the demand for the issuance of tamper-proof passports.
“A passport is an official document issued for travel to foreign countries. It is a document of identity and nationality, which gives the holder the right to be protected and assisted by the diplomatic and consular offices of the Republic of the Philippines abroad. The passport must be treated with highest importance and regard,” Legarda said.
Recto’s measure, SBN 795, meanwhile, seeks to minimize the burden for new passport applicants, particularly the Overseas Filipinos Workers (OFWs) who need to secure a passport for employment.
The committee will also discuss a proposal from Sen. Grace Poe (Senate Resolution 142) to conduct an inquiry on the alleged delay of passport processing.
Expected guests to attend the hearing include Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, together with Undersecretary Ariel Abadilla, Assistant Secretary Frank Cminafranca, and Assistant Secretary Grace Princesa; Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Immigration lawyer Victor Siriban, Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Vilma Cabrera, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, lawyer Lourdines Dela Cruz of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Director Robert Larga of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Director Gilberto Llanto of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, Ma. Louisa Gomez and Rodel Alzona of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), Lawrence Castilo of Migrante International, Dominic Tajon of the APO Production Unit, and Rhoda Caliwara of the Philippine Association of Legitimate Service Contractors (PALSCON).