If you have previously applied for a Philippine passport personally without passing through travel agencies, you know how horrible it is to get an appointment at the Department of Foregin Affairs (DFA) and skipping through different fixers that linger in the premises of DFA. I was fortunate enough that during the process of my first passport processing, an old colleague of my mother was working in DFA and I got my passport processing expedited – processed today, claimed tomorrow. It was a sudden issuance as I am bound to leave for Singapore then on Saturday and was able to submit only on the immediate Thursday.
Fast forward, I learned through our internal company travel advisory that the green passport might not be allowed for entry in certain countries even if there are previous advisories from DFA that they would still be valid. Since I don’t want to be inconvenienced of travelling and getting denied at my destination because of an old passport, I renewed my passport even if it is due for next year.
Following the guidelines, in our intranet, I scheduled an appointment via this site. All the necessary requirements for renewal is stated there in a straightforward manner. Good thing with this system is that there shouldn’t be any more confusion on what to bring and what to prepare. Disturbances from fixers as well are prevented thus reducing the illegal acts that happen outside the office (like the ones in the old building before). Likewise, the map to the new consular office is indicated there. I scheduled my appointment two weeks ago for today at the 0730H schedule.
I arrived at the new DFA Consular office just right before the required 30 minutes leeway time for my appointment. There were people already inside the area even if the office is still closed. The early appointments were just readied by the entrance where you would get your renewal form with reference number pre-filled up with the information that you have provided in the appointment system. No need to bring a print-out of the application form unless they misplaced your pre-filledup form. Just be sure you have your appointment confirmation details when you come in.
The cause of the traffic inside is because some people are trying to get in even if their appointment schedule is still isn’t called yet for processing. I remember bumping into a woman who insists on going to the area even if her appointment is 0900H and I even saw someone in the compound who doesn’t have prior appointment. I guess this is one area that DFA should look into. Though, queueing people is quite a breeze. In fact, 0700H and 0730H appointments were called inside together in the processing room. We were given priority numbers however processing would depend if you have the necessary documents at hand. No worries, there’s a photocopier outside if you have missed something photcopied but it would be better to be there prepared and complete with the necessary documents. After all, it is not hard to understand bullet points indicating what are the possible documents needed.
Inside is perhaps a hundred plus seater air-conditioned waiting room with 23 counters to facilitate applicants. While they were not open altogether, they gradually open counters.
My number was generated 0705H but I got inside around 0712H. I started my processing tracker by this time.
I got accommodated in 23 minutes and my stay in the counter lasted for less than 5 minutes. Since mine is renewal only, the necessary documents were minimal though I brought my form 2316, driver’s license, and old passport. Make sure you have photocopies and the originals. After which, I was given my invoice slip and off to go to the cashier going to the second floor.
Going to the second floor exposed me to the interiors of the building. They look nice and modern. Parang di Pinas. Ha ha ha! Normal processing of passport costs 950 while expedited costs 1200. Currently, the system is experiencing some difficulty and the old 7 day processing for expedited takes 10 working days while the normal takes 20 working days. Hope they’ll get this resolved sooner. Though for me, it won’t be much of a deal breaker since I don’t have any scheduled trips outside the country though I hope we (me and my travel buddies) can plan for another. He he he!
Luckily, there weren’t much people in the cashier when I arrived so after paying, I got my priority number for passport encoding. I even forgot the change for my passport and luckily manong was honest enough to indicate that he hasn’t given me my change. I was in a hurry to complete the application that’s why I forgot that tapwe. He he he!
There are 64 stations for passport encoding and this time, I found myself again at the last station (similar to the processing area). So as to prevent people bringing wrongly positioned/sized/proportioned pictures, they have set-up areas with cameras installed. Prior capturing your photo, the encoder would get pertinent details based on your application form, get your biometrics (fingerprints), and signature. After validating your information, they would print the summary, have it printed and signed by you to confirm it.
My watch is advanced by 20 minutes and I was surprised I completed my renewal process under 1 hour, 48 minutes to be exact. 48 minutes for the actual passport processing though I stayed a little further for my passport delivery. During the appointment process, you have the option to have the passport delivered and if you opt to, you need to provide the delivery address. The delivery address is saved in their system and they’ll just have to validate your delivery address before confirming everything.
Honestly, I was surprised with the whole experience. Knowing that government services have always been hounded by inefficiency and government facilities that seems neglected, this is truly a welcoming new experience. While the building has been inaugurated last 22 March 2010, I do hope that DFA would be able to sustain this and would be a good benchmark for other government agencies to follow suit. I think one factor why I was able to complete it fast was that my documents were complete and I took the early appointment schedule. I guess you should make that one too should you want to complete it fast. :P
My passport is yet to arrive though I am quite happy that government services do change for the better. :)