Passing a law extending the validity period of a Philippine passport from 5 to 10 years is “one low-hanging fruit” Congress can pick, a move that will immediately benefit millions of Filipino travelers and migrant workers, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said today.
And if Congress still needs prodding, Recto is asking President Duterte to officially certify as priority measure any of the bills lengthening the validity of the travel document.
Recto reminded Duterte of the call the latter made in his maiden State of the Nation Address last July that Philippine passports should have a 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 maintained a satellite office.
Extending the validity of the passport would, however, require a revision of Republic Act 8239, the Philippine Passport Act of 1996.
Days before Duterte issued his SONA call, Recto filed Senate Bill 795, extending the passport validity to 10 years, by amending Section 10 of RA 8239.
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,” he lamented.
While the bill extends the passport validity to a decade, such will not, however, cover minors in accordance with international norms that they be issued five-year passports due to the fact that their physical appearance could change substantially within that period.
Recto’s bill also grants the Secretary of Foreign Affairs the right to limit the validity of a passport 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 said during budget hearings in the Senate that they do not object to the proposal.